Exploring the cognitive, emotional and sensory correlates of social anxiety in autistic and neurotypical adolescents.

Publication date: Mar 01, 2020

Social anxiety is common in autistic adolescents. While emerging evidence indicates the importance of several mechanisms (including intolerance of uncertainty (IU), alexithymia and sensory processing) for maintaining anxiety, limited research has explored how these factors are associated with social anxiety in autistic adolescents.

We investigated whether IU, emotional and sensory processing are related to social anxiety in autistic and neurotypical adolescents, gathering experimental and questionnaire data from 61 autistic and 62 neurotypical 11- to 17-year-olds recruited to have similarly high levels of anxiety.

In autistic and neurotypical adolescents matched for social anxiety, similar significant associations were observed between social anxiety and IU, alexithymia, maladaptive emotion regulation, sensory hypersensitivity and interoceptive sensibility. Taking a dimensional approach, we found that child- and parent-reported IU, alexithymia and sensory hypersensitivity mediated the relationship between autistic traits and social anxiety symptoms in the combined group of adolescents.

Our findings indicate that similar correlates of social anxiety are evident in autistic and neurotypical youths experiencing social anxiety and further our understanding of mechanisms that may contribute towards social anxiety in both groups.

Pickard, H., Hirsch, C., Simonoff, E., and Happ’e, F. Exploring the cognitive, emotional and sensory correlates of social anxiety in autistic and neurotypical adolescents. 15366. 2020 J Child Psychol Psychiatry.

Concepts Keywords
Alexithymia RTT
Anxiety Pervasive developmental disorders
Autistic Anxiety disorders
Cognitive Abnormal psychology
Dimensional Approach Psychiatric diagnosis
Emotion Regulation Psychology
High Anxiety Psychiatry
Hypersensitivity Alexithymia sensory processing
IU Emotional sensory processing
Maladaptive Neurotypical
Neurotypical Alexithymia
Questionnaire Social anxiety disorder
Sensory Processing Autism
Social Anxiety


Type Source Name
disease MESH social anxiety
disease MESH uncertainty
disease MESH alexithymia
disease MESH hypersensitivity
disease MESH Autism

Original Article

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