A new treatment that aims to prevent people with autism from developing anxiety is being trialled at BSMS.
At more than one percent of the population, there are 2.8 million people in the UK living with autism. Of these, at least one in four are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, existing psychological and drug-based treatments for anxiety appear to have limited success among people with both conditions.
The BSMS team are investigating whether a new computer-based therapy – known as ADIE – could prevent people with autism from developing anxiety disorders in the first place. Professor Hugo Critchley explains: “Our previous research has shown that people with autism often misjudge physiological changes in their body, such as a faster heartbeat. They can react very strongly to such changes, with a consequent increase in their levels of anxiety.
“ADIE works by using a finger monitor that measures heartbeats as users work through a number of exercises on a computer. So it helps them to understand why such changes might be happening, and to respond to these changes without anxiety.”
The therapy is now being tested in a clinical trial, funded by the mental health charity MQ. If successful, the team plan to develop an app version that patients and therapists could use in clinical settings.