What is autism?
Autism is not a mental illness. It's a developmental condition that affects social behaviour and speech.
However, people with autism do often suffer from mental health problems. A study found that 7 out of 10 people with autism also have a condition such as anxiety, depression or OCD.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means some people are affected a lot, and others only slightly.
Severely autistic people may have big problems communicating, and need someone to look after them all the time. People with
Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism, may be highly intelligent but have difficulty socialising.
The signs of autism
Features of autism include:
- problems reading body language, understanding jokes, sarcasm, facial expressions and common phrases
- difficulty recognising or understanding other people's emotions, and expressing your own
- finding it hard to understand other people's thoughts and actions, predicting what will happen next, and understanding danger
- preferring familiar routines
- having intense and specific interests in things
- repetitive movements such as twisting your fingers
Just because you experience one or more of these, it doesn’t mean you’r definitely autistic. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full assessment.
Take the first step – if you think you are affected by autism-related mental health problems, or you're finding life with autism difficult, talk to someone you like and trust. It could be a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.
You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to an expert or a specialist autism team. If you're having mental health problems, you may be seen by a psychiatrist or child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).