Anxiety in female adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: Lessons for healthcare professionals
Despite awareness of the high prevalence of anxiety in females with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), females report high unmet service needs regarding mental health concerns. Aim: This study explored experiences of anxiety in female adolescences with ASD, their management of it, and their experiences of mental health services in the United Kingdom. Methods: Utilising an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, six females with ASD, aged between 13 to 15 years and referred to mental health services, took part in semi-structured interviews. Results: The analysis generated the following themes: the central experience of anxiety; the impact of the surrounding world; mismatch between needs and support; and the value of self-management. The themes emphasised a need for a more general acceptance of ASD-related anxiety triggers such as sensory overload and uncertainty to change. Discussion: Adolescents raised concerns around the appropriateness of support provided for their anxiety, including awareness raising initiatives around ASD which only served to heighten their anxiety. Conclusions: Healthcare professionals need to have a better understanding of ASD-related anxiety in females. To improve outcomes, better service knowledge and communications around ASD-related anxiety are important for the assessment of anxiety as well as tailored ASD interventions.