Coexisting mental disorders

The following advice is adapted from NICE Guideline CG142: Autism in adults: diagnosis and management []


The core symptoms of autism can have an impact on treatment of coexisting mental disorders. For this reason mental health interventions should be adapted. You may wish to seek advice from a specialist autism team about this.


Cognitive-behavioural interventions should include the following adaptations:

  • a more concrete and structured approach with a greater use of written and visual information (which may include worksheets, thought bubbles, images and 'tool boxes')
  • placing greater emphasis on changing behaviour, rather than cognitions, and using the behaviour as the starting point for intervention
  • making rules explicit and explaining their context
  • using plain English and avoiding excessive use of metaphor, ambiguity and hypothetical situations
  • involving a family member, partner, carer or professional (if the person with autism agrees) to support the implementation of an intervention
  • maintaining the person's attention by offering regular breaks and incorporating their special interests into therapy if possible (such as using computers to present information).


E learning for health and social care practitioners

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