Linking PTSD, Trauma, & ASD

Research Paper Title

Heightened risk of posttraumatic stress disorder in adults with autism spectrum disorder: The role of cumulative trauma and memory deficits.

Background

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are known to be at increased risk of exposure to traumas such as maltreatment and abuse, however less is known about possible susceptibility towards the development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and associated risk factors.

This study investigated the rates of trauma exposure and PTSD, and the role of cumulative trauma exposure and memory as risk factors for PTSD in adults who self-reported having received an ASD diagnosis, compared to a typically developing (TD) comparison group.

Methods

Questionnaires assessing self-reported frequency of trauma exposure (LEC), PTSD symptomology (PCL-S) and memory (EMQ- R and BRIEF-A) were completed online by 38 ASD adults and 44 TD adults.

Results

Rates of trauma exposure and PTSD symptomatology were significantly higher in the ASD group, compared to the TD group, with deficits in working memory and everyday memory mediating this association. Interestingly, a cumulative effect of trauma exposure on PTSD symptom severity was only found in the ASD group.

Conclusions

High rates of trauma and probable PTSD in ASD adults highlight the importance of routine screening. Cumulative trauma exposure and memory deficits may act to increase risk of PTSD in ASD; longitudinal research is called for.

Reference

Rumball, F., Brook, L., Happe, F. & Karl, A. (2021) Heightened risk of posttraumatic stress disorder in adults with autism spectrum disorder: The role of cumulative trauma and memory deficits. Research in Developmental Disabilities. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2020.103848. Online ahead of print.

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