Anxiety-related symptoms are frequent concerns in children, adolescents and adults with Aspergers and HFA, which may be treatable with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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Anxiety is commonly found in high functioning individuals on the spectrum in particular because they have an increased awareness of their own social difficulties. This cognitive awareness may intensify their anxiety toward social interaction and promote isolation.

Recent numbers found that 11-84% of children on the autism spectrum experience impairing anxiety, while only 4.7% of all children aged 3-17 years have experienced anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps individuals recognize how thoughts and feelings influence behavior and cope with these challenges.

CBT is used to treat a wide range of issues, in addition to anxiety, including:

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • sleep disorders
  • sexual disorders
  • depression
  • bipolar disorders
  • phobias
  • eating disorders
  • substance use disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia

One goal of CBT treatment is to identify and change thought patterns that have adverse influence on behavior. For people with Aspergers and HFA, concerning thoughts about social relationships may prevent them from engaging in behavioral experiences that would lead to confidence, or even mastery of social skills.

CBT is a popular therapeutic intervention because it is usually short in duration and more affordable in the long run.

Just a small sample of clinical studies have studied the efficacy of CBT in individuals with autism-related disorders. However, the results of these studies have been very encouraging to date.

It is known that combination therapy (psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, for instance) usually works better than single-therapy approach in the treatment of many disorders. But, it is encouraging to know that single-standing therapeutic interventions are also effective on their own merit.

By A Patricia Del Angel, M.D., Clinical Director, Autism Community Network


Preliminary Efficacy of a Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program for Anxious Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Susan W. White, Thomas Ollendick, Lawrence Scahill, Donald Oswald, and Anne Marie Albano.  J Autism Dev Disord. Jun 30, 2009 :  Published online Jun 30, 2009.

Development of a Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention Program to Treat Anxiety and Social Deficits in Teens with High-Functioning Autism. Susan W. White, Anne Marie Albano, Cynthia R. Johnson, Connie Kasari, Thomas Ollendick, Ami Klin, Donald Oswald, and Lawrence Scahill.  Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. Mar 2010; 13(1): 77–90.

CDC/MMWR, Supplement /Vol.62/No. 2. May 17, 2013

Treating anxiety disorders in children with high functioning autism spectrum disorders: a controlled trial. Chalfant, AM1, Rapee R, Carroll LJ Autism Dev Disord.2007 Nov;37(10):1842-57. Epub 2006 Dec 15.

Mayo Clinic. 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

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  1. My oldest son has Asperger’s and when he was a freshman he had a very difficult time navigating through his huge college campus size highschool . I never realized how much this would affect him but he had no classes with any friends and has a fear of people judging him or being able to tell he’s different . He is so high functioning he doesn’t like to be associated with anyone lower functioning or severe so he would avoid any classes that had other children that were severe. He then was bullied which didn’t help and the school did nothing to the 3 boys that decided it was fun to punch him in his genetals for 3 months. He has no trust now in Highschool’s. I did a psych eval and he was Diagnosed with anxiety and pervasive depression disorder as well . He would hide in the bathrooms and the school started putting him in ISS . They had the attitude because he is capable of going to other classes he’s making his own choices instead of finding out the why he was avoiding certain classes. They punished him for his behavior he couldn’t control . In the end i got an advocate to help me and he is now in a different school i live in San Antonio and we are retired military he needs CBT therapy and a psychiatrist i have a hard time finding one that takes Tricare standard . Would love any referrals for this .

  2. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the most effective therapies available . As an autistic man, I have found CBT to be effective in helping me manage my autism. I strongly recommend it to adult autistic people wanting to better their lives.

  3. It is extremely difficult to find CBT therapists who specialize in treating OCD in individuals on the spectrum. I live in NJ – any referrals for professionals in this field is appreciated.

  4. I live in Belmont NC my daughter has asbergers ADHD anxiety I need this help please

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