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Co-Occuring Autism and Depression: A Clinical Challenge

Is depression more common in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than in the general population? Yes, according to research on the co-morbidity of mood disorders and ASD – which according to the CDC affects an estimated 1 in 45 children in the U.S.
 
An article published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, “Challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of depression in autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan” (2015), found that some research points to rates of depression as high as 57 percent in ASD patients. One study of adult patients found the rate of suicide of ASD adults was almost 2 percent, compared to less than.5 percent of adults without autism.
 

Clinicians Face Difficulties Differentiating between Depression and ASD

 
It can be difficult to differentiate between symptoms of autism and those of depression. In fact, diagnosing depression in those with autism represents a clinical challenge that dates back to Leo Kanner’s original description of the condition in his 1943 paper where he identified that individuals with autism spectrum disorders show little facial emotion – called a “flat affect.” However, in autism, affect doesn’t necessarily correspond to the individuals’ mood, which is an internal state not always congruent with emotion.
 
Another challenge that clinicians face in diagnosing depression in patients with autism is the overlap in symptoms. Those of depression typically include a flat facial expression as with autism, reduced appetite, sleep disturbance, low energy, reduced motivation, social withdrawal and reduced desire to communicate with others. Many of these same symptoms can stem from autism rather than depression.
 

Find the Right Medications with Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Testing

 
Two drugs for treating the irritability and aggression that is commonly associated with the autism – risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) – have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, so-called “off-label” medications include naltrexone, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of alcohol and opioid addictions. It can ease disabling repetitive and self-injurious behaviors. (Autism Speaks, “Medicines for Treating Autism’s Core Symptoms”).
 
MD Labs’ CLIA-certified Rxight® genetic testing panel – which among the most comprehensive available – includes risperidone and aripiprazole, along with 26 antidepressant medications across clinically significant antidepressant classes. Over 200 other medication are also covered in the Rxight® panel.
 

Your Insurance May Cover Testing with Rxight®

 
Many insurance companies now cover tetrabenazine (Xenazine), nortriptyline (branded as Pamelor and Aventyl Hydrochloride) and amitriptyline (branded as Elavil, Endep and Vanatrip), antidepressants within the Rxight® panel.
 
If you or a loved one suffers from depression and has been diagnosed with ASD as well, ask your doctor about authorizing the Rxight® Pharmacogenetic Test. Genetic testing with Rxight® enables you and your prescribers to know – preferably ahead of time – which medications may causes potentially dangerous adverse reactions and conversely which may be ineffective.
 
To get started, we invite you to email us today or call 1-888-888-1932 to discover how you may benefit from our pharmacogenetic testing program.

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