Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder involving deficits in social interaction. This disorder is usually present from birth and identifiable at young ages. ASD is an umbrella term meant to encompass the conditions previously known separately as Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Individuals with ASD may struggle to communicate with other individuals, to understand the feelings and motivations of others, and to process what is said to them. They may also demonstrate repetitive behaviors or interests which are restricted to very specific topics. Children, teenagers, and adults with ASD commonly experience co-occurring anxiety, and many individuals with ASD will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. According to one study, up to 40% of children with ASD also met criteria for a phobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or some other anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety occurring alongside ASD may include:
- Excessive worry
- Phobias, or fears of certain situations or sensations
- Needing family members to answer questions in a certain way
- Needing family members to carry out actions in a specific, routine way
- Anxiety about performance in social situations
- Concern about separating from family or caretakers, even for a short duration
- Compulsive washing, checking, counting, or arranging behaviors
- Generalized anxiety around a number of different topics or situations
- Refusing to go to school, or to stay at school for the full day once there
Anxiety disorders can cause a great deal of distress and disruption for individuals with ASD and their families. Furthermore, they can amplify the social difficulties that individuals with ASD experience. However, both the anxiety and its impact on functioning can be drastically improved through treatment with evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). At The OCD & Anxiety Center, we help you or your family member to live a productive life free of anxiety. We specialize in the treatment of OCD, anxiety disorders, and related disorders, and have years of experience treating these conditions in individuals with ASD. We use Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) in the treatment of anxiety disorders, as this is a proven strategy for helping individuals both with and without ASD to claim their lives back from anxiety.
Additionally, we use social skills training to help children, teenagers, and adults with ASD to learn strategies to create, maintain, and improve relationships with others. Our therapists are trained in PEERS UCLA, which is an evidence-based social skills training for children on the autism spectrum. These skills help set individuals of all ages up for a successful and productive social life. It is possible to overcome fear and worry with an autism spectrum disorder— contact us at (630) 522-3124 today to learn about how we can help.