The distinction between mental illness and autism can be confused, but a fine line sets the two apart.
In this blog, we will answer the following questions:
- What category of disability does autism fall under?
- Developmental disability vs. mental illness
- Diagnosing for autism
- Is there any treatment for autism?
- Common conditions & struggles people with autism have
What Category Of Disability Does Autism Fall Under?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disability. This means it’s caused by differences in the brain that can lead to impairments in physical, learning, language, and behavior areas.
Developmental Disability Vs. Mental Illness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities are a group of conditions characterized by impaired physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. They typically begin in a person’s development and impact their daily life.
Types of Developmental Disabilities
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Cerebral Palsy
- Fragile X Syndrome
- Intellectual Disability
- Language Disorders
- Learning Disorders
- Tourette Syndrome
Mental illness is a health condition that covers a wide range of diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It impacts emotions, cognitive processes, behavior, and even physical health.
Types of Mental Illnesses
- Anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder
- Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder
- Psychotic disorders, including Schizophrenia
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders, including bulimia and anorexia
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Diagnosing For Autism
Autism must be diagnosed by a licensed professional using the patient’s developmental history and behavior. Likewise, doctors typically wait until a child is at least two years of age to confirm a proper diagnosis. They’ll use diagnostic criteria that require patients to meet a certain number of categories to receive the autism diagnosis.
Is There Any Treatment For Autism?
There are many innovative and science-backed treatments offered for individuals with autism today. These services offer variety and individualization to fit each client better.
Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy is among the most popular and effective forms of autism treatment. In ABA therapy, therapists work with patients on communication and daily living skills, behavior management, self-regulation, and cognitive abilities. The goal is to understand the patient and use this information to create a treatment plan to enhance their learning and behavior.
Occupational therapy helps Individuals with autism with the challenges they frequently face in their physical and cognitive abilities. Occupational therapists concentrate on essential developmental aspects, including self-care, social abilities, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and sensory integration. As a result, patients can increase their quality of life by having a more robust skillset required for daily living.
Speech therapists help their patients develop greater communication skills with three key pieces in mind: Pronunciation, Speech muscles, and Speech patterns. They use a variety of activities to enhance these areas of communication, including word games, reading aloud, honing facial expressions, and practicing tongue exercises.
Common Conditions & Struggles People With Autism Have
Autism, as a developmental disorder, impacts how someone thinks, learns, and communicates. It’s essential to recognize that autism is a spectrum, and the challenges of each individual will vary.
People with ASD may face unique challenges because of the differences in behavior compared to neurotypical people.
These challenges can include the following:
- Poor social and communication skills
- Difficulty expressing emotions or recognizing others’ emotions
- Difficulty managing daily functioning and learning new skills
- Difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships with friends and family members
- Phobias, repetitive behaviors, and obsessive tendencies
- Excessive worry or anxiety
- Finding and maintaining competitive employment
- Feeding challenges
Autistic people can have good mental health, and additional challenges don’t always accompany the condition. That said, the autism research facility Autistica found that seven out of ten autistic people have a mental health disorder.
People with autism can develop mental illness through genetic or environmental factors like anyone else. Their unique challenges, upbringing, and experiences make them especially vulnerable to developing mental health problems.
The Autism Speaks Autism Care Network (ACN) has further outlined how many people with autism have co-occurring mental health conditions.
|Condition||Autistic People with Condition|
|Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)||50-70%|
|Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)||17%|
|Psychotic Symptoms (e.g. Schizophrenia)||34.8%|
Published On: August 31, 2022
Updated On: September 25, 2023