Emotional dysregulation plays a significant role in the link between anxiety and the severity of autism in women

Emotional dysregulation plays a significant role in the link between anxiety and the severity of autism in women

Emotional dysregulation plays a significant role in the link between anxiety and the severity of autism in women

New research suggests there is a link between anxiety symptoms and the severity of autism. The study also provides evidence that the ability to regulate emotions plays an important role for women with autism. The results appear in the journal autism research.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been linked to an increased likelihood of anxiety, a feeling that can range from mild restlessness to intense anxiety and panic. Research has further shown that emotion regulation is related to anxiety levels in people with autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, some studies suggest that women on the autism spectrum are more likely to experience anxiety compared to men with autism.

But most research on autism is done with mostly male samples. The authors behind the new research sought to better understand the symptoms of anxiety in women with intellectual disabilities and autism.

“The presence of anxious symptoms in the population with ASD is much higher than in the general population; Therefore, it is important to examine these symptoms and try to understand them,” explained study author Gema Sáez-Suanes (@According to), Professor at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. “Variables such as gender have traditionally been associated with the occurrence of more anxiety, but their role in people with ASD has not been studied. Remember that gender plays an important role in autism.”

The study included 81 male and 40 female participants with a diagnosis of ASD and intellectual disability. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 62 years and were recruited from healthcare facilities in Madrid and Galicia.

The researchers found that greater anxiety symptoms were positively correlated with emotional dysregulation. In other words, those who had difficulty controlling their emotions and adjusting their emotional response to their current context were more likely to display anxiety symptoms. “These results suggest that people with ASD are generally susceptible to internalized psychopathologies as they employ a greater number of non-adaptive strategies to regulate their emotions,” the researcher wrote.

Sáez-Suanes and her colleagues also found that emotional dysregulation strengthened the relationship between autism and anxiety symptoms in female (but not male) participants.

“It would be interesting for us to know that the emotional regulation problems that people with autism have put them at higher risk of suffering from anxious symptoms than the non-autistic population. Furthermore, this does not affect men and women equally,” Sáez-Suanes told PsyPost.

However, she added that “many issues remain to be resolved. Anxiety in autism is not well understood, we need diagnostic criteria and effective treatments for this group.”

The study “Does Gender Matter?: Anxiety Symptoms and Emotional Dysregulation in Adults with Autism and Intellectual Disability” was authored by Gema P. Sáez-Suanes, Domingo García-Villamisar, and Araceli del Pozo Armentia.

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