Traditional and atypical presentations of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorder

J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Nov;44(11):2851-61. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2141-7.


We assessed anxiety consistent (i.e., "traditional") and inconsistent (i.e., "atypical") with diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) definitions in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Differential relationships between traditional anxiety, atypical anxiety, child characteristics, anxiety predictors and ASD-symptomology were explored. Fifty-nine participants (7-17 years, M(age) = 10.48 years; IQ > 60) with ASD and parents completed semi-structured interviews, self- and parent-reports. Seventeen percent of youth presented with traditional anxiety, 15 % with atypical anxiety, and 31 % with both. Language ability, anxious cognitions and hypersensitivity predicted traditional anxiety, whereas traditional anxiety and ASD symptoms predicted atypical anxiety. Findings suggest youth with ASD express anxiety in ways similar and dissimilar to DSM definitions. Similarities support the presence of comorbid anxiety disorders in ASD. Whether dissimilarities are unique to ASD requires further examination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis*
  • Cognition
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Symptom Assessment