Mindfulness and Autism

Mindfulness based treatment may improve mental health for adults with autism

(RxWiki News) Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that can affect a person in many areas, including his or her mental health.

For those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), depression and anxiety are common concerns.

A recent study, the first of its kind, found that Mindfulness Based Treatment adapted for adults with ASD had a positive impact on both depression and anxiety.

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Annelies Spek, PhD Clinical Psychologist in Eindhoven, The Netherlands led a study of adults with ASD from the Adult Autism Center in Eindhoven. Forty-two participants were recruited.

The individuals were randomly assigned to one of two groups, either the treatment group or the control group. The control group was considered a “wait-list” group that received no treatment.

The treatment group received 8 weeks of Mindfulness Based Treatment which focuses on paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental and accepting way.

The group participated in breathing exercises, body scans, noticing sensations in the body as well as thoughts and feelings, mindful movements and meditation. The treatment also required that the participants practice at home as well.

Through self-report questionnaires, the adults with ASD described the effects they were experiencing throughout the Mindfulness Treatment process.

The researchers found that on average, those receiving the Mindfulness Based Treatment had a reduction in both depression and anxiety symptoms. The “wait-list” group had no real changes in their symptoms, on average.

Alongside the drops in negative symptoms, the participants who received the MBT had increases in positive affect, or positive feelings. There was no change in the average feelings of those not in the treatment group.

The results suggest that Mindfulness Based Treatment may be helpful in reducing depression and anxiety for adults with ASD, as well as possibly increasing positive feelings.

This study was made available online in August in the Research in Developmental Disabilities journal. No reports were made about funding or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 26, 2012