Anxiety and Autism


There are a number of potential risk factors that may be associated with anxiety in people on the autism spectrum.

For example, Vasa and Mazurek (2015) have suggested that age, gender, cognitive function (higher or lower IQ), cognitive processing difficulties (such as fear of change), emotional regulation difficulties (such as an inability to correctly monitor your own emotions) and physiological difficulties (such as heightened arousal) may all be associated with anxiety. However they acknowledge that the evidence is mixed or contradictory on some of these issues.

Some researchers have suggested that other risk factors may be associated with anxiety. For example, Mazurek et al (2013) suggested that “anxiety, sensory over-responsivity and GI problems are possibly interrelated phenomenon for children with ASD, and may have common underlying mechanisms” while Rzepecka H. et al. (2011) suggested a link between sleep, anxiety and challenging behaviour.

Whatever the underlying risk factors, individuals on the autism spectrum may become more anxious under certain circumstances. For example,

  • some people may become anxious in social situations, such as when they have to meet strangers
  • some people may become anxious if their daily routine is changed
  • some people may become anxious when they experience specific, unpleasant sensations, such as hearing a dog bark or seeing flashing lights.
  • some people may become anxious if they are traumatised by unpleasant events, such as teasing or bullying
02 Nov 2017