A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2018 | Number 4, Volume 32

GI problems may play role in psychiatric issues in ASD

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have elevated rates of both gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression, and researchers are reporting new evidence that GI problems may actually contribute to psychiatric symptoms in ASD. 

Analyzing data from nearly 2,800 children and adolescents with ASD, Emily Neuhaus and colleagues found that several factors, including a higher number of ASD symptoms, higher verbal IQ, lower adaptive behavior skills, and lower family income, were associated with higher levels of psychiatric symptoms. However, they say, “Levels of GI symptoms accounted for unique variance in psychiatric outcomes over and above these other factors, linking increased GI problems with increased psychiatric symptoms in children with ASD.” 

The researchers say, “With regard to mental health providers, our findings indicate a need to assess for GI symptoms even when those are not the presenting complaint, as they may serve to contribute to the behavioral concerns for which a family is seeking services.” They add that their findings reinforce the need to conceptualize ASD as a diagnosis affecting multiple neurobiological systems.   


“Gastrointestinal and psychiatric symptoms among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder,” Emily Neuhaus, Raphael A. Bernier, See Wan Tham, and Sara J. Webb, Frontiers in Psychiatry, October 22, 2018 (free online). Address: Emily Neuhaus, [email protected].