Traditional and Atypical Presentations of Anxiety in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

We assessed anxiety consistent (i.e., “traditional”) and inconsistent (i.e., “atypical”) with diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) definitions in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Differential relationships between traditional anxiety, atypical anxiety, child characteristics, anxiety predictors and ASD-symptomology were explored. Fifty-nine participants (7–17 years, Mage = 10.48 years; IQ > 60) with ASD and parents completed semi-structured interviews, self- and parent-reports. Seventeen percent of youth presented with traditional anxiety, 15 % with atypical anxiety, and 31 % with both. Language ability, anxious cognitions and hypersensitivity predicted traditional anxiety, whereas traditional anxiety and ASD symptoms predicted atypical anxiety. Findings suggest youth with ASD express anxiety in ways similar and dissimilar to DSM definitions. Similarities support the presence of comorbid anxiety disorders in ASD. Whether dissimilarities are unique to ASD requires further examination.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Previous research suggests that agreement between the DAS and WISC-IV is high (r = .77; Dumont et al. 1996).

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the families who participated in this research and to Ivy Giserman for her assistance in the collection of this data. Funding was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (SAP # 4100042728 to R. Schultz), the National Institute of Mental Health (RC1MH08879 to R. Schultz; MH063747; MH086438 to P. Kendall) and Shire Pharmaceuticals (to J. Herrington).

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Correspondence to Connor Morrow Kerns.

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Judith Miller and John Herrington contributed equally and share last authorship.

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Kerns, C.M., Kendall, P.C., Berry, L. et al. Traditional and Atypical Presentations of Anxiety in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 44, 2851–2861 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2141-7

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Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Children
  • Adolescents
  • Comorbidity
  • Atypical
  • Traditional