Autism is both one of the most talked about and least understood mental health disorders in the United States today. Known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is a condition that causes developmental delays, learning disabilities, communication problems, abnormal social skills, and behavioral problems that range from mild to severe. ASD also includes several delineations, including Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Development Disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
It is precisely because of this wide range of symptoms that many outside of the medical community misunderstand and misinterpret autism. But because of its pervasive nature – the CDC estimates that 1 percent of the world’s population is affected by some form of autism – we are learning more and more about autism.
ASD is also prevalent and rising amongst children. A recently released CDC study conducted across 11 states shows that, amongst 4-year-olds, 1 in 64 were affected by autism. That rate (15.6 percent) is up from the 14.1 percent of the same study conducted in 2014. Boys are four times more likely to have ASD than girls.
And because of the wide range of symptoms, many people diagnosed with ASD can be highly functional. However, just because someone is functional does not mean that they are not suffering from mental health concerns. And should these concerns go untreated, ASD can lead to a higher incidence of immune disorders (allergies, asthma), diabetes, heart disease, motor disorders, cancer, obesity, schizophrenia and even suicidal thoughts and behavior. It can also come to dominate all phases of your life.
That is why it is important to obtain an early and accurate diagnosis, followed by targeted treatment – which can be supplied by qualified specialists, including child psychiatrists.