Epilepsy in Adults with Autism

New research looks at the link between epilepsy and autism

Epilepsy in Adults with Autism

By Shayli Lones Published at January 23 Views 2,544

Nearly one-third of those diagnosed with autism also have epilepsy, according to new research. However, the connection between the two neurological conditions has received little attention and clinical research — until now.

A new study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information is shedding light on the link between epilepsy and autism. “This prospective population-based study was conducted in an attempt to point out differences on a group basis between adults with autism with or without epilepsy, and to describe the occurrence, the seizure characteristics, and the outcome of epilepsy in autism,” the study says.

In many cases, adults with epilepsy may also display autism symptoms and not be accurately diagnosed with autism. The connection between autism and epilepsy lies in the abnormal synchrony of widespread systems in the brain. “Alterations in functional connectivity between brain structures critical for language and social development are also pivotal in the synchronization that occurs in many epilepsy syndromes,” research says.

“Experts propose that some of the brain abnormalities that are associated with autism may contribute to seizures. These abnormalities can cause changes in brain activity by disrupting neurons in the brain,” says Autism Speaks. “Neurons are cells that process and transmit information and send signals to the rest of the body. So overloads or disturbances in the activity of these neurons can result in imbalances that cause seizures.

Adults with Autism

An autism diagnosis as an adult can be difficult since the symptoms can sometimes lead to a misdiagnosis. Adults with autism are affected in three areas: social communication, social understanding and flexibility of thought. Though everyone is different, the National Alliance on Mental Illness outlines symptoms found in the three areas:

Social Communication

  • Difficulty understanding gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • Unaware of what is socially appropriate and has difficulty choosing topics to talk about
  • May not be socially motivated because they find communication difficult
  • May not have many friends and they may choose not to socialize very much

Social Understanding

  • Difficulty in group situations
  • Finds small talk and chatting very difficult
  • Problems understanding double meanings
  • Not choosing appropriate topics to talk about
  • Taking what people say very literally

Flexibility of Thought

  • An obsession with rigid routines and severe distress if routines are disrupted
  • Problems making plans for the future, and having difficulties organizing life
  • Problems with sequencing tasks

If you have epilepsy and think you may also have autism the first step is to speak with your doctor, who may refer you to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.

To learn more about living with epilepsy:

Could an Epilepsy Diet Help You?
Stop Epilepsy From Killing Your Relationship
Traveling with Epilepsy

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