Observable Symptoms of Anxiety in Individuals with Fragile X Syndrome: Parent and Caregiver Perspectives

Genes (Basel). 2022 Sep 16;13(9):1660. doi: 10.3390/genes13091660.


Caregiver reports, clinical observations, and diagnostic assessments indicate that most individuals with fragile X syndrome experience high levels of chronic anxiety. However, anxiety is a challenging endpoint for outcome measurement in FXS because most individuals cannot reliably report internal emotional or body states. A comprehensive survey of the presence, frequency, and duration of anxiety-related symptoms and questions to elicit open-ended responses was completed by caregivers of 456 individuals with FXS, ages 2-81 years (87 female, 369 male) and 24 female and 2 male FXS self-advocates ages 15-66 years. Caregivers reported classic behavioral indicators of anxiety, such as avoidance, irritability, motor agitation, and physiological symptoms, as well as behavioral features in FXS such as repetitive behavior, aggression, and self-injury. Self-advocate accounts largely paralleled caregiver data. Factor analyses yielded four factors: (1) increased irritability, aggression, and self-injury; (2) increased physical movement, nervous activity, and restlessness; (3) physical and physiological features of anxiety; and (4) internalizing and gastrointestinal symptoms. Caregivers are capable of observing and reporting behaviors that are valid indicators of anxious states that are usually reported in self-report standardized assessments. These results support the development of an anxiety measure for FXS that minimizes problems with rater inference.

Keywords: FMR1 gene; assessment; autism; intellectual disability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fragile X Syndrome* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents
  • Young Adult