Alexithymic and autistic traits: relevance for comorbid depression and social phobia in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder

Laura Albantakis*, Marie-Luise Brandi, Imme C Zillekens, Lara Henco, Leonie Weindel, Hanna Thaler, Lena Schliephake, Bert Timmermans, Leonhard Schilbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

High alexithymic traits and psychiatric comorbidities such as depression and social phobia are frequently observed among adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this study, we tested whether alexithymic and/or autistic traits are risk factors for depressive and social phobic symptoms in adults with ASD (n = 122), patients with social interaction difficulties other than autism (n = 62), and neurotypical participants (n = 261). Multiple regression analyses of these three groups demonstrated that both traits explained considerable variance of depressive and social phobic symptoms. In adults with ASD, alexithymic traits were predictive of depressive symptoms, while autistic traits predicted social phobic traits. In patients with social interaction difficulties other than autism, alexithymic and autistic traits were identified as predictors for social phobic symptoms, while no variable predicted depressive symptoms. In neurotypicals, both alexithymic and autistic traits were predictive of depressive and social phobic symptoms. Our results, therefore, highlight the importance of assessing both alexithymic and autistic traits in patients with and without ASD for identifying comorbid psychopathology. Depending on the underlying core symptomatology, alexithymic and/or autistic trait increase the risk of depressive and social phobic symptoms calling for therapeutic strategies to prevent or at least reduce comorbid psychopathology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalAutism
Early online date14 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • adults
  • alexithymia
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • depression
  • psychiatric comorbidity
  • social phobia
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • AVOIDANCE
  • ANXIETY
  • PSYCHOTHERAPY
  • HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM
  • CHILDREN
  • INDIVIDUALS
  • DIFFICULTIES
  • INTERPERSONAL EMOTION REGULATION
  • IMPAIRMENTS
  • ASSOCIATION

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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