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  • Persistent issues with social communication and interactions.

  • Repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities.

  • Symptoms interfere with functioning.

  • May or may not have accompanying language or intellectual impairment.


Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which patients suffer from pervasive difficulties with social communication and have repetitive, restricted interests and behaviors. Autism spectrum disorder affects about 1% of the adult population with an estimated heritability of about 90%. Approximately 20–30% of individuals in whom autism is diagnosed also have a substance use problem as well as a higher risk of ADHD, mood, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that assessment of autism spectrum disorder should be a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach that includes asking about core autism spectrum disorder difficulties, early development, medical and family history, behavior, education, employment, needs assessment, risks, physical examination with potential laboratory testing, and feedback to the individual.


No treatments for the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in adults have been validated. There is some evidence for therapy to address social cognitions and behaviors. Use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder is under investigation.

Jin  J. JAMA patient page. Screening for autism spectrum disorder. JAMA. 2016 Feb 16;315(7):718.
[PubMed: 26881385]  
Murphy  CM  et al. Autism spectrum disorder in adults: diagnosis, management, and health services development. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2016 Jul 7;12:1669–86.
[PubMed: 27462160]  

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