Psychological and Physical Conditions That Can Co-Occur with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

by Stephen Borgman, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

It is common for other conditions to occur along side an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The DSM-IVR, which is the medical reference book for all psychiatric conditions, describes several conditions that are more likely to go along with an autism spectrum disorder.


Anxiety can often accompany an autism spectrum syndrome. Why this is is not always clear, but different studies have found a 10% or higher co-occurrence of anxiety conditions, which can manifest as obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety, or social anxiety. Of course, one could also argue that this is just part of the nature of having to deal with a culture that is so different than the way a person with autism spectrum disorder is wired.


Depression can often accompany autism spectrum syndrome conditions because of the challenges described above in living from day to day. Writers have speculated that perhaps it could be the realization of being different, or feeling disconnected from others due to social challenges, or even the result of being bullied either at school or in the workplace.

Sensory Challenges

It has been well documented in different first hand accounts that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder often are highly sensitive either to certain types of fabric, to noise, or even to certain smells or tastes and textures. It is easy to understand how a combination of sensory challenges, along with the struggle of interacting with peers socially could lead to both anxiety and depression, and how anxiety and depression can, in turn, make a person more sensitive to different stimuli.


It’s interesting that the DSM-IVR does not allow for ADD/ADHD to be diagnosed alongside of Autism Spectrum Disorder. There is often a very real overlap between the symptoms of the two conditions. Part of what makes people with an autism spectrum disorder so distractible and hyperactive is that they may experience the world in fragments of sound, color, and stimuli. If over-stimulated, they they can act in ways that “look” like the inattentive and hyperactive traits often associated with ADD/ADHD.

Poor Motor Coordination

Just as every child and adult on the autism spectrum is unique from each other, so it’s hard to say that every single individual struggles with poor motor coordination. But individuals on the autism spectrum do tend to struggle with clumsiness, poor eye hand coordination, and even motor planning (having a sense of your own body, and how to organize your movements).

It can be a little overwhelming to look at these different conditions that may be associated with an autism spectrum disorder. These conditions can be seen as responses that individuals often develop to deal with the uncertainties of living life as a differently-abled individual in an neurotypical society.

The encouraging word I have for you is that each individual is unique, has a host of positive strengths, and can also learn adaptive ways to cope to offset areas of weakness. In doing so, each individual can life a happier and more productive life.

Copyright Stephen Borgman

Related Articles:

Complete List of All Articles on Autism Spectrum Directory

Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder Part I

Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder Part II

Autism Fact Sheet

Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet

PDD-NOS: Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified Fact Sheet

Dispelling the Myths Regarding an Autism Spectrum Disorder




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