Self-Focused Attention and Depressive Symptoms in Adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Adults with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) are at high risk of developing comorbid depressive symptoms and in the general population self-focused attention has been associated with depression. Here, we aimed to examine the relationships between aspects of self-focused attention and symptoms of depression in individuals with a diagnosis of ASD. 113 adults with a diagnosis of ASD completed self-report questionnaires. Results found that higher levels of brooding, and to a lesser degree, reflection predicted increased depressive symptoms. However, higher levels of private self-consciousness actually predicted decreased depressive symptoms. Differential relationships were observed for males and females. The current study highlights the importance of using a multidimensional approach to examining self-focused attention in ASD, and its important relationship with depression.
KeywordsAutistic spectrum disorder Depression Rumination Brooding Reflection Private self-consciousness Public self-consciousness
We wish to thank the autism services within the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, along with the Northern Ireland branch of the National Autistic Society, Autism NI, and Autism Initiatives for their support in recruiting participants for this study. A thank you also to Shauuna McLean for her help with data input. This paper has been prepared from a doctoral dissertation by Amy Burns.
AB conceived of the study, participated in its design, collected and inputted the data, performed the statistical analysis and interpreted the findings and drafted the initial manuscript. MI participated in the design of the study, facilitated participant recruitment, contributed to the interpretation of the findings and provided critical revisions of the draft manuscript. KW acted as chief investigator, participated in the coordination and design of the study, provided technical support with the statistical analysis, contributed to the interpretation of the findings and provided critical revisions of the draft manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Ethics approval was granted by North East - Newcastle & North Tyneside Research Ethics Committee and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Allison, C., Auyeung, B., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2012). Toward brief “red flags” for autism screening: The short autism spectrum quotient and the short quantitative checklist in 1,000 cases and 3,000 controls. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(2), 202–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(1), 5–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- British Psychological Society (2010). Code of human research ethics. Retrieved from http://www.bps.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/code_of_human_research_ethics.pdf.
- British Psychological Society (2013). Ethics guidelines for internet mediated research. Retrieved from http://www.bps.org.uk/system/files/Public%20files/inf206-guidelines-for-internet-mediated-research.pdf.
- Cassidy, S., Bradley, P., Robinson, J., Allison, C., McHugh, M., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). Suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts in adults with Asperger’s syndrome attending a specialist diagnostic clinic: A clinical cohort study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(2), 142–147.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Frith, U. (2003). Autism: Explaining the enigma. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Happé, F., & Frith, U. (1999). Theory of mind and self‐consciousness: What is it like to be autistic? Mind & Language, 14(1), 5–22.Google Scholar
- Merino, H., Senra, C., & Ferreiro, F. (2016). Are worry and rumination specific pathways linking neuroticism and symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and mixed anxiety-depressive disorder? Plos ONE, 11(5), e0156169. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156169.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Olatunji, B. O., Naragon-Gainey, K., & Wolitzky-Taylor, K. B. (2013). Specificity of rumination in anxiety and depression: A multimodal meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 20(3), 225–257.Google Scholar
- Roelofs, J., Muris, P., Huibers, M., Peeters, F., & Arntz, A. (2006). On the measurement of rumination: A psychometric evaluation of the ruminative response scale and the rumination on sadness scale in undergraduates. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 37(4), 299–313.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Schoofs, H., Hermans, D., & Raes, F. (Dec 2010). Brooding and reflection as subtypes of rumination: Evidence from confirmatory factor analysis in nonclinical samples using the dutch ruminative response scale. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 32(4), 609–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Verhoeven, E., Marijnissen, N., Berger, H., Oudshoorn, J., Van Der Sijde, A., & Teunisse, J. (2012). Brief report: Relationship between self-awareness of real-world behavior and treatment outcome in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(5), 889–894.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- World Health Organization. (201). Depression and other common mental disorders: Global health estimates. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/254610. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.