Wednesday, March 25, 2015

People with autism at higher risk of psychosis

Maastricht: Young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are five times more likely to develop psychoses or bipolar disorder as their peers. This according to a study led by Jean-Paul Selten, Extraordinary Professor of Social Exclusion and Psychiatric Disorders at Maastricht University, which will be published in JAMA Psychiatry on 25 March. This is the first time this relationship has been examined in a large cohort study.
Selten conducted the study with Swedish and British colleagues based on the Stockholm Youth Cohort. ‘Thanks to this comprehensive dataset, we were able to conduct a ten-year study on more than 9000 people who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder before they turned sixteen,’ explains Selten. ‘This group was five times more likely to develop psychosis or bipolar disorder compared to their peers without ASD. Interestingly, young ASD patients who perform well in school have the highest risk of developing psychosis, up to eighteen times higher in fact.’ A psychosis is a combination of symptoms that includes delusions and hallucinations. Patients with bipolar disorder experience manic, hypomanic and depressive episodes, alternating with asymptomatic periods.

It is unclear why this group is at such greatly increased risk of psychosis. ‘There is some evidence to suggest a genetic link between autism and psychosis or bipolar disorder,’ Selten explains. ‘The stress of an autism disorder, which often results in social exclusion, most likely plays an important role. This also provides opportunities for prevention, such as therapy or counselling. It’s important that therapists are made aware of this increased risk, particularly among young people who do well in school.’
Selten argues that the results of this study using Swedish data can also be applied in the Netherlands, where 30,000 to 60,000 people aged zero to twenty are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Click here to read the full article ‘Risk for Nonaffective Psychotic Disorder and Bipolar Disorder in Young People With Autism Spectrum Disorder, A Population-Based Study’.