Autism and mental health: what you need to know

Autism affects more than one in every 100 people in the UK. It affects everyone differently. This can make recognising and understanding individual symptoms related to autism difficult. 

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How can autism affect mental health?

  • If you’re a parent of an autistic child, it’s helpful to be aware of the impact autism can have on mental wellbeing.
  • Autistic people are more susceptible to certain mental health difficulties. This can include Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and eating disorders.
  • They can also experience emotional distress linked to social and communication difficulties.
  • Approximately 40 per cent of those on the autism spectrum have an anxiety disorder. This can be due to social interaction and communication difficulties. Biological differences in the brain also play a part.
  • Not all autistic children will be affected in this way. But it’s important to be aware of, and look out for, any potential mood or behavioural changes.
  • For example, if your child appears distant, low on energy, or withdrawn from activities they would normally enjoy. This may be a sign that they are finding it difficult to express themselves.

More support

  • The National Autistic Society has guides for parents of autistic children. These cover a range of mental health topics.
  • The National Autistic Society also host a parent-to-parent helpline.
  • Ambitious About Autism has a mental wellbeing guide for parents of autistic children.
  • You might find it helpful to get in touch with a professional counsellor with expertise in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  • This can help your child practice talking about their emotions. It can help them figure out how best to manage any difficult feelings they are experiencing.
  • It can also give you a chance to discuss your feelings and concerns. Many parents struggle with taking time for themselves. It is important to look after your own wellbeing, too.
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