Autism and psychosis: Clinical implications for depression and suicide

Rachel Upthegrove, Ahmad Abu-Akel, Katharine Chisholm, Ashleigh Lin, Sofia Zahid, Mirabel Pelton, Stephen Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing recognition of the co-occurrence of autism and schizophrenia spectrum disorders. However, the clinical significance of this on outcomes such as depression and suicidal thinking has not been explored. This study examines the association of autism spectrum traits, depressive symptoms and suicidal behaviour in individuals with psychotic experiences.

In two cross sectional studies, individuals from a non-help seeking university student sample and patients with first episode psychosis (FEP) service completed standardized measures of autism spectrum traits, psychotic experiences, depressive symptoms and suicidal thinking.

In healthy non-help seeking students, increased autism traits and increased subclinical psychotic experiences were significantly associated with depressive symptoms; a significant interaction effect suggests their combined presence has a greater impact on depression. In FEP, high autism traits and positive symptoms were associated with increased depression, hopelessness and suicidality, however there was no significant interaction effect. In FEP a multiple mediation model revealed that the relationship between autism traits and risk for suicidality was mediated through hopelessness.

Young people with subclinical psychotic experiences and all patients with FEP should be screened for autism spectrum traits, which may have significant impact on clinical outcomes. Tailored interventions for patients with high levels of autistic spectrum co-morbidities in FEP should be a priority for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-85
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date18 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

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© 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


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