Autistic teenagers who have difficulties in their social environment are observed to be victims of depressive symptoms and are prone to bullying.
Researchers based out of the University of Bristol used series of planned questionnaires, genetic information and clinical trials on 6090 young individuals based out of the 90s longitudinal study. During the course of observations, autistic children with severe traits had more depressive symptoms than their other neurotypical peers.
Children, who are victims of bullying, are likelier to have a diagnosis of depression in their early teens and the latest findings suggest multi-fold risks to those people who have suffered from being bullied at some point in their lives. Nevertheless, the team did not find any underlying link between higher levels of depressive symptoms and autism condition alone.
Dr. Dheeraj Rai, Senior Consultant and Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Center for Academic Mental Health said: “We still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the commonness of mental health problems in autism and how can we address with immediate concerns.”
Dr. Rai continues, “The gigantic amount of data that we have collected from the 90s study has given us a wealth of information, not usually available. We have been able to track the development of depressive symptoms in autistic children up to the age of 18 years.”
More studies need to be carried out in order to understand the pathways that contribute to the risk of growing depressive symptoms in the lifespan of an autistic individual.
The team comments, “Our findings suggest there needs to be a deeper focus on the role of bullying experiences and proper interventions need to be put in place for the wellbeing of people with autism.”
Professor Alan Emond explains, “Bullying can have a negative impact to not just autistic people, but for anyone who is a victim of this traumatic experience.” Nevertheless, this has far implying effects on people with autism that makes them particularly vulnerable. To eradicate such instances and to protect young people and autistic individuals a lateral approach is the need of the hour.
“People with autism and their families have always maintained their mental health is one of their top-most priorities during the course of this study,” explains Dr. James Cusack, Director of Science at Autistica.”
Dr. Cusack comments, “This isn’t surprising as people with autism are seen to experience higher rates of mental health problems given their chronic complexities which make them more gullible to suicidal tendencies.” Despite all this, the knowledge base on depression and autism remains at sub-par levels.
The study highlights the symptoms that are more elevated in adolescents with autism. Interestingly, the authors conclude, bullying rather than the underlying genetic differences in individuals with autism is seen to be a driving factor that triggers depressive symptoms.