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Br J Psychiatry. 2006 Oct;189:361-6.

Episodic psychiatric disorders in teenagers with learning disabilities with and without autism.

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  • 1Surrey Place Centre, 2 Surrey Place, Toronto M5S 2C2, Ontario, Canada.



Mental health problems in people with learning disabilities and autism are poorly understood.


To investigate the prevalence of episodic psychiatric disorders in a sample of teenagers with learning disabilities with and without autism.


Teenagers with learning disabilities living in one geographical area were identified. Those with autism were matched to those without. A semi-structured investigator-based interview linked to Research Diagnostic Criteria was used to assess prevalence and type of episodic disorders.


Significantly more individuals with autism had a lifetime episodic disorder, most commonly major depression. Two individuals with autism had bipolar affective disorder. Other episodic disorders with mood components and behaviour change were also evident, as were unclassifiable disorders characterised by complex psychiatric symptoms, chronicity and general deterioration. Antipsychotics and stimulants were most frequently prescribed; the former associated with episodic disorder, the latter with autism.


Teenagers with learning disabilities and autism have higher rates of episodic psychiatric disorders than those with learning disabilities alone.

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