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Psychiatric comorbidities in asperger syndrome and high functioning autism: diagnostic challenges

Luigi Mazzone1*, Liliana Ruta2 and Laura Reale3

Author Affiliations

1 Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, Department of Neuroscience, I.R.C.C.S. Children’s Hospital, Bambino Gesù, Rome, Italy

2 Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University, Douglas House,18B Trumpington Rd, Cambridge CB2 8AH, UK

3 Division of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, Department of Pediatrics, University of Catania, Catania, Italy

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Annals of General Psychiatry 2012, 11:16  doi:10.1186/1744-859X-11-16

Published: 25 June 2012


Several psychiatric conditions, both internalizing and externalizing, have been documented in comorbidity with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning Autism (HFA). In this review we examine the interplay between psychiatric comorbidities and AS/HFA. In particular, we will focus our attention on three main issues. First, we examine which psychiatric disorders are more frequently associated with AS/HFA. Second, we review which diagnostic tools are currently available for clinicians to investigate and diagnose the associated psychiatric disorders in individuals with AS/HFA. Third, we discuss the challenges that clinicians and researchers face in trying to determine whether the psychiatric symptoms are phenotypic manifestations of AS/HFA or rather they are the expression of a distinct, though comorbid, disorder. We will also consider the role played by the environment in the manifestation and interpretation of these symptoms. Finally, we will propose some strategies to try to address these issues, and we will discuss therapeutic implications.

Asperger; High functioning autism; Comorbidities; Diagnostic challenges