[Autism spectrum disorder and suicidality]

Encephale. 2015 Sep;41(4):362-9. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2014.08.010. Epub 2014 Sep 5.
[Article in French]


Introduction: Most studies on suicide exclude subjects with autism spectrum disorders, yet there is a risk group. The purpose of this article is to present the data in the literature regarding the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of suicidality in subjects with autism spectrum disorders and to identify the factors that promote the transition to action.

Methods: This review was carried out using the data set collected in Medline PubMed, items with "autism spectrum disorder", "pervasive developmental disorder", "Asperger's syndrome", "suicide", "suicide attempt", and "suicide behavior".

Results: In all subjects from our research on PubMed, 21.3% of subjects with autism spectrum disorder reported suicidal ideation, have attempted suicide or died by suicide (115 out of 539 subjects) and 7.7% of subjects supported for suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide exhibited an autism spectrum disorder (62 out of 806 subjects), all ages combined. Suicidal ideation and morbid preoccupation are particularly common in adolescents and young adults. Suicide attempts are accompanied by a willingness for death and can lead to suicide. They are more common in high-functioning autism and Asperger subjects. The methods used are often violent and potentially lethal or fatal in two cases published. Suicide risk depends on many factors that highlight the vulnerability of these subjects, following autistic and developmental symptoms. Vulnerability complicating the diagnosis of comorbid depressive and anxiety disorders are major factors associated with suicidality. Vulnerability but also directly related to suicidality, since the origin of physical and sexual abuse and victimization by peers assigning them the role of "scapegoat" are both responsible for acting out.

Conclusion: Given the diversity of factors involved in the risk of suicide in this population, this does not validate "a" program of intervention, but the intervention of "customized programs". Their implementation should be as early as possible in order to treat while the brain has the greatest plasticity. The aim is to provide the necessary access to the greatest possible autonomy. Hence, including working communication skills and interaction, these subject will have independent means of protection, an essential complement to measures to protect vulnerable subjects; the vulnerability of direct and indirect suicidality. Comorbid diagnoses must take into account the specificities of these patients, their difficulties in communicating their mental state, and adapted and innovative therapeutic strategies must be offered and validated.

Keywords: Asperger's syndrome; Autism spectrum disorder; Comorbidity; Comorbidité; Suicide; Suicide attempt; Suicide behaviour; Syndrome d’Asperger; Tentative de suicide; Trouble du spectre autistique; Victimisation; Victimization.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology*
  • Crime Victims
  • Depression / complications
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide Prevention*