Recent reports suggest that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may experience depression at a high frequency, yet few published studies address this issue, especially among adults. In the current investigation, we reviewed features of depression and comorbid traits among depressed inpatients with intellectual disabilities (ID) as a function of ASD. A retrospective chart review was performed for 53 inpatients meeting criteria for depression (13 individuals with ASD and ID and 40 matched individuals with ID but without ASD), all of whom had received a diagnosis of depression at the time of discharge from a specialty psychiatric unit for adults with ID. The depression diagnoses were based on a comprehensive clinical assessment; specific mood and anxiety symptoms were reported by informants at the time of intake using the Mood and Anxiety Semi-Structured (MASS) Interview for Patients with Intellectual Disabilities (Charlot, Deutsch, Hunt, Fletcher, & McIlvane, 2007). Overall, few qualitative differences were detected between the 2 groups. Both depressed inpatient groups had high rates of comorbid anxiety disorders as well as externalizing behaviors. Inpatients with ASD had a total of 2 more symptoms (out of 29 possible symptom items) than their depressed peers without an ASD diagnosis (mean scores of 12.23 and 9.85, respectively). Anxiety disorders were reported in 62% of individuals with ASD and 38% of those without ASD. Antipsychotic medication was prevalent among the patients with ASD and depression. Over 80% of the inpatients with ASD and depression, compared with 49% of the non-ASD group, were treated with these medications.
Keywords: antipsychotic medications; anxiety; autism; autism spectrum disorders; depression; mood disorders.