Treating the person, not the illness: What is the best way to treat comorbidity in people with autism?



ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder

COMORBIDITY: “The presence of one or more chronic disorders coexisting with their primary diagnosis” (Casanova).

DSM-5: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. 

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 


Most common mental disorders that are comorbid with ASD. (Raising Children)


The best way to treat comorbid disorders in people with ASD is to create more individualized treatment plans that fit with the individual’s specific needs. This can be done by: 

  1. Being aware.
  2. Pairing primary care providers with specialists.
  3. Find common treatments.

1. Be aware

As with any illness, early intervention is always key. This is also true with diagnosis of both ASD and any and all disorders that may be comorbid with it. According to Dr. Manuel Casanova, “in autism, catching and managing comorbidities early is an important step towards healthy aging” (Casanova). Being aware and catching comorbid disorders as they appear is the first step to providing the best possible treatment.

2. Pair with specialist

Another way to improve the quality and accuracy of treatments is by bringing in a specialists who works in the field of the comorbid disorder(s) occurring. This can ensure that in addition to the treatment the individual is receiving for ASD, they are getting an expert’s opinion on how to manage the comorbidities. 

3. Find common treatments

Finally, treatment can be improved by looking at the treatment strategies of all disorders occurring and finding common ground. For example, if a person has ASD as well as ADHD, a common treatment of both is behavioral therapy. By finding what treatment strategies the comorbid disorders have in common, the care providers can use that information to focus on what might work for the individual. 


In the comments below let me know:

  • Who in your community would benefit most from this presentation? 
  • What your most important takeaway is? 
  • What strategy would you suggest to improve treatment of comorbid disorders? 


“Autism’s Clinical Companions: Frequent Comorbidities with ASD.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 1 July 2017,

“Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 1 July 2017,

Casanova, Manuel, Dr. “Comorbidities and Autism.” Cortical Chauvinism, 14 Oct. 2019,

“Conditions That Can Occur with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Raising Children,

Doshi-Velez, Finale et al. “Comorbidity clusters in autism spectrum disorders: an electronic health record time-series analysis.” Pediatrics vol. 133,1 (2014): e54-63. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0819

Morgan, Caryl N., et al. “Psychiatric Comorbidity and Medication Use in Autism: a Community Survey.” Psychiatric Bulletin, vol. 27, no. 10, 2003, pp. 378–381., doi:10.1192/pb.27.10.378.

Ragunath, Pk et al. “A systems biological study on the comorbidity of autism spectrum disorders and bipolar disorder.” Bioinformation vol. 7,3 (2011): 102-6. doi:10.6026/97320630007102

Share this project
  1. April 24, 2020 by Macy

    Hi Jenna, I really liked how you included how we can help. This definitely allows the audience to feel more of a sense of connection to this topic. I also liked you introduction video. It was super informational! Great work!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.