Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are four times more likely than their neurotypical counterparts to develop depression over the course of their lives. Because the rate of experiencing depression among kids with ASD is so high, it’s crucial to know the effects this can have on your child as well as signs to look out for.

Warning signs to look for in teen depression

Diagnosing depression in children with ASD can be extremely difficult because there are many shared symptoms between the two disorders and there are not any instruments currently that can detect early depression in individuals with ASD. It can also be difficult to recognize the symptoms of depression in children with ASD because they are unlikely to openly display feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.

However, there are some things you can look for if you think your teen might be experiencing depression. In many cases, depression will worsen the symptoms of ASD, so notice if your child has become increasingly agitated, withdrawn, aggressive, or is engaging in any self-harm behaviors. Other depressive signs to look for include worsened sleeping patterns, extreme appetite changes, or a reverse in psychomotor capabilities.

There are many reasons why your child could be experiencing these depressive symptoms. Teens with ASD are starting to realize for the first time that they are different from their peers, which can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness. They could also be struggling to cope with increased academic pressures at school. Finally, as depression is known to have genetic links, they could be genetically predisposed to developing depression.

Negative effects of teen depression

There are many negative academic, social, and physical impacts that result from teenage depression. One immediate impact you might notice is a sharp decrease in academic performance. Mood is strongly correlated to motivation, concentration, and energy levels, so when your teen is experiencing prolonged periods of sadness, it can impact their ability to perform well in school.

Depression can also further impact your teen’s ability to create and maintain social relationships. While this can already be difficult for teens with ASD, depression can worsen social withdrawal which hinders existing relationships and prevents them from making any new ones. When teens aren’t actively participating in social relationships, they miss out on key opportunities to develop problem-solving and communication skills that could help them navigate future adult relationships.

The impacts of teen depression extend beyond the mind and can affect the physical body as well. Individuals struggling with depression can also experience insomnia, headaches, fatigue, chronic pain, weight loss, nausea, gastrointestinal issues, and inflammation. If your teen is struggling with both depression and ASD, a program like Seven Stars can help.

Discover Seven Stars can help

Seven Stars is a leading autism-focused residential treatment center that specializes in helping teens 13-17 struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We have a sophisticated, evidence-based, theoretical, and clinical foundation. Multidisciplinary treatment and support are essential for success in treating the neurodevelopmental, learning, psychiatric, emotional, social, and behavioral complications associated with ASD. For more information, please call (844) 601-1167.