With research suggesting that around 80% of people living with an autism diagnosis will experience a mental health issue at some point, it’s little surprise that many individuals living with autism are also living with poor mental health. Here we take a look at the mental illnesses that are found most commonly in people with an autism diagnosis, as well as consider when to get help and what practical steps can be taken to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Mental health conditions that are common in people on the spectrum
Anxiety is the mental health condition most common in people with autism. Some studies suggest that around 1 in 5 people with autism also have an anxiety diagnosis. Other common co-morbidities include: depression; OCD; conduct and impulse control disorders; and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, mental health conditions are significantly more prevalent in the autistic population in comparison with the neuro-typical population.
When to get help for mental health issues
If your mental health is impacting on your ability to live a “normal” lifestyle, or causing significant distress to you or those around you, it’s probably time to get help. Even if you are currently going through a “good” phase of mental health and are managing well with your existing support strategies, it’s important to know that help is always there if you need it.
What can I do to improve my mental health and wellbeing?
Although unfortunately autism and mental health problems are closely correlated, there is plenty that people living with autism can do to boost and protect their mental wellbeing. Options include: adopting a healthy lifestyle (eating right, exercising, getting out in the fresh air, for example); reaching out to friends and family for support; accessing mental health professionals for talking therapies / appropriate medication; keeping routines going (so attending work or school even if you don’t feel like it, for example); practicing good sleep hygiene; practicing mindfulness, meditation or breathing techniques for relaxation; and practicing self-care. Finding a combination of measures that work for you can make a lasting, positive difference to mental health.
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