AUTISM AND MENTAL HEALTH
What is Mental Health?
Everyone has ‘mental health.’ It affects how we think and feel about ourselves and the people around us, our ability to make and keep friends and relationships, how we handle stress and overcome difficult situations, and the choices that we make.
It is quite normal to sometimes feel worried, anxious or upset when things don’t go as we hope and everyone faces pressure in their lives at certain times, which can impact on mental health. This can include things such as exams, difficulties in families (such as parents getting a divorce), having arguments with friends or boyfriends/girlfriends, and general issues around growing up and being expected to be more independent from your family. Most of the time, these difficulties will naturally resolve themselves with a bit of support from friends and family.
However, if someone is experiencing worries, anxiety or difficult feelings to the extent that it is affecting their ability to get on with everyday life and this persists for several weeks, then it might be that they have a mental health problem that they need to get some advice and support with.
For more information and advice regarding the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, please go to https://www.camhsnorthderbyshire.nhs.uk/team-core-camhs
ASD and Mental Health
It is important to know that ASD itself is not a mental health condition and not every person with ASD will have mental health difficulties.
However, we do know that having ASD means that young people are more vulnerable to developing mental health problems:
- As they typically find it difficult to understand and manage their feelings, and the feelings of others. They may confuse different emotions, or find it hard to understand what is causing them to feel a particular way (i.e., struggling to work out the trigger for a particular feeling).
- Finding it difficult to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others can be challenging and can itself cause high levels of anxiety. This may not always be expressed in a way that is immediately understandable to others ( e.g., during periods of high stress, they may become more fixated on routine, or engage in repetitive behaviours, as opposed to becoming visibly distressed).
- This, alongside hyper (over) and hypo (under) sensitivity to their environment and social situations mean that very often young people with ASD can go from being OK to being completely overwhelmed by their emotions in a short space of time.
Whilst, some of these difficulties are likely to be attributed to or exacerbated by their ASD, some mental health problems faced by people may not be directly linked to their ASD diagnosis, and it is important that this is assessed by a mental health professional where required.