Divergent presentation of anxiety in high-risk groups within the intellectual disability population

Laura Groves*, Joanna Moss, Chris Oliver, Rachel Royston, Jane Waite, Hayley Crawford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Anxiety symptomatology is common in individuals with intellectual disability (ID). Symptomatology includes both traditional Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) anxiety disorders and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-related anxiety traits. Some genetic disorders such as Cornelia de Lange (CdLS) and fragile X syndromes (FXS) are at very high risk of anxiety and afford the opportunity to examine prevalence, profiles and associated person characteristics. However, prevalence and associated characteristics of anxiety in these high-risk groups remain poorly described and understood. The aim of the current study was to examine the prevalence and profile of DSM-5 and ASD-related anxiety symptomatology in individuals with CdLS and FXS and associated behavioural and cognitive characteristics. Methods: Questionnaires and interviews assessing DSM-5 and ASD-related anxiety were conducted with caregivers of individuals with CdLS (n = 49) and FXS (n = 36). Results: DSM-5 anxiety symptomatology was present in both groups with high co-morbidity across anxiety diagnoses. ASD-related anxiety was also prevalent with specific difficulties related to intolerance of uncertainty identified in both groups. Symptomatology was persistent over the lifespan for both groups. Anxiety type was partially associated with repetitive behaviour but not measures of overall ASD phenomenology in CdLS. Conclusions: DSM-5 and ASD-related anxiety are common in these high-risk syndromes associated with ID. Prospective syndrome specific presentations and associations, which may implicate specific underlying mechanisms, are discussed. Clinicians should be aware of the risk and difficulties involved in assessment of anxiety in individuals with ID, including atypical types, to ensure these individuals do not “miss” diagnoses and support in general clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number54
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
Early online date5 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s). Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the Cornelia de Lange syndrome Foundation UK and Ireland, Cerebra charity and the Baily Thomas Charitable Foundation. HC’s research is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West Midlands. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.


  • Anxiety
  • Cornelia de Lange syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Genetic syndromes
  • Intellectual disability


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