Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia are different conditions, but they share similar symptoms. It is possible for people to have both conditions at the same time.
ASD is a developmental condition that affects how people communicate, behave, and interact socially.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects how people think, manage their emotions, and relate to others.
The conditions can have overlapping symptoms, and both may involve genetics and certain areas of the brain.
This article examines the connection between the two conditions. It also looks at the treatment and therapy options and provides some helpful resources.
The findings showed that the prevalence of schizophrenia was significantly higher among people with ASD than it was among the control groups.
Of the people with schizophrenia, 930 also had ASD. The prevalence of ASD in people with schizophrenia varied widely from 3.4% to 52%. Overall, the review found a significant link between schizophrenia and ASD.
A 2018 article noted the common features of the conditions. Firstly, genetics may play a role in people developing both ASD and schizophrenia. Research has shown an increased risk of ASD in people who have a parent or sibling with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Imaging studies of the central nervous system in people with ASD and people with psychosis have also revealed abnormalities in the structure and function of parts of the brain important for social cognition.
According to a 2017 study, people with a defect in chromosome 22, known as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) or DiGeorge syndrome, may have an increased risk of developing certain conditions, including schizophrenia and ASD.
However, among 89 children with 22q11DS, the researchers found no link between ASD in early childhood and the development of psychosis.
Some symptoms of autism and schizophrenia may overlap, which can make diagnosis more difficult. According to a 2018 article, overlapping symptoms of the two conditions include:
- social withdrawal early on
- flattened affect, which means that people may not express emotion in typical ways and may speak in a monotone voice or have a lack of facial expression
- poor eye contact
- problems communicating
- restricted speech
- unusual behaviors
- psychomotor abnormalities, which is the relationship between cognitive function and physical movement
Certain treatments may help people manage schizophrenia and ASD.
Treatments for schizophrenia may include:
Antipsychotic medications work to relieve psychosis symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. Antipsychotics can cause side effects, including movement problems, weight gain, and an increased risk of diabetes.
Medications may also help treat some secondary symptoms of ASD, such as anxiety or depression.
People can talk with a healthcare professional about the possible risks of medications.
The following types of therapy may be helpful for people with ASD or schizophrenia:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT may be an effective treatment for some people with schizophrenia. CBT focuses on changing unhealthy patterns of thought.
- Supportive psychotherapy: Psychotherapy helps people process their experience of schizophrenia and supports them in coping with the condition.
- Cognitive enhancement therapy (CET): CET helps support a person’s cognitive functioning.
- Therapies for ASD: Therapy
may helpimprove ASD symptoms. Therapy can include educational and behavioral interventions. A therapist may work with children with ASD to help them develop language and social skills and learn about positive and negative behaviors.
- Family counseling: Those living with a person who has ASD may face certain challenges. Family counseling may help support them.
It is not possible to prevent someone with ASD from developing schizophrenia. There are many
Environmental risk factors include:
- stressful or dangerous surroundings
- living in poverty
- exposure to viruses or nutritional problems before birth
These risk factors do not automatically mean that a person with ASD will develop schizophrenia.
Psychosocial, behavioral, and educational therapies may help people with ASD and schizophrenia improve their social and cognitive skills.
Some medications can help relieve schizophrenia symptoms, and others may help alleviate mental health symptoms relating to ASD.
An individual and their family or caregivers can work with healthcare professionals who can help them cope with ASD and schizophrenia. It may also be useful to contact local organizations or support groups.
People may find the following resources helpful:
- The Schizophrenia & Psychosis Action Alliance offers a range of resources, including a free helpline and support groups.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a 24-7 helpline, which is available every day of the year and provides referrals to local organizations and support groups.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers family support groups for adults who have a loved one with a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia.
- The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has a list of resources for those whom ASD affects, including information, book recommendations, and tools for finding a local psychiatrist.
Anyone who develops symptoms of ASD or schizophrenia should contact a doctor as soon as possible for a diagnosis and treatment.
According to the
Many children with ASD have symptoms that improve as they age and receive behavioral therapies. A person may require ongoing therapies and support throughout their life.
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With a range of treatments and support, people with schizophrenia can reduce their symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for minimizing the severity of symptoms.
Schizophrenia and ASD are two separate conditions, but they can occur at the same time. The conditions have overlapping symptoms, such as communication difficulties, social withdrawal, and behavioral issues.
Research suggests that there may be a link between schizophrenia and ASD, as they share common symptoms. Genetics and certain areas of the brain may play a role in both conditions.
Early diagnosis and treatment of ASD and schizophrenia will likely improve outcomes. It will also help reduce and manage symptoms, as well as support people in their day-to-day life.