Study Shows that Gastrointestinal Problems and Symptoms of Stress, and Anxiety Seem to Be Impacting Each Other in Children and Teens with Autism spectrum disorder.
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems, and internalizing symptoms such as stress, depression, and anxiety, are both commonly reported in autistic children and teens. A recent study by Dr. Kristen Dovgan and colleagues suggests that these two problems are simultaneously impacting each other. Data from parents of 621 under-18-year-old autistic individuals with gastrointestinal problems showed that such symptoms as withdrawn and anxious behavior correlated with such GI problems such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea.
The authors hypothesize that symptoms such as anxiety and depression found in autistic children and teens might be at least partially explained by some of these individuals being unable to express the GI discomfort that they are feeling to their parents naturally is extremely frustrating. On the other hand, stress impacts the balance of bacteria living in the gut, which not only can alter gastrointestinal functioning but also causes the gut to send signals back to the brain that increases the feelings of anxiety, and depression. The authors conclude that treatments addressing signals from both the brain and the gut should be used for autistic children and teens with GI as well as internalized symptoms.
“Bidirectional relationship between internalizing symptoms and gastrointestinal problems in youth with autism spectrum disorder,” Kristen Dovgan, Kyra Gynegrowski, and Bradley J. Ferguson, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, April 20, 2022 (online). Address: Kristen Dovgan, Marist College, Department of Psychology, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601, kristen.dovgan@ marist.edu.