Associations between sensory processing and depression in autistic girls

Vicki Bitsika, Christopher F. Sharpley, Richard Mills

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1 Citation (SciVal)


Background: Autistic youth often experience depression, which can confound their social interactions as well as contribute to decreased quality of life. One of the possible correlates of depression in these youth is their sensitivity to sensory stimuli, which can be of several kinds, and is often referred to as Sensory Features (SF). Methods: The association between SF (using the Sensory Profile (SPr)) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) (as measured by the Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory MDD subscale (CASI-D)) was investigated in 53 autistic girls and adolescents aged 6–17 yr, using total MDD scores and also the underlying components of MDD identified via Factor Analysis. Data were collected from the autistic females as well as one of their parents to compare these sources for their association between SF and MDD. Results: Data from the SPr and the CASI-D revealed a significant correlation between SP and total scores from the CASI-D, although that association was not uniform across all four Quadrants of the SPr. Examination of the factor structure of the CASI-D revealed two major components, only one of which (Depressed Mood) was significantly associated with aspects of SPr. The data fitted a model of depression as a behavioural withdrawal from chronic stress as an attempted adaptation to that stress. Only the girls’ own evaluations of their SF made significant contributions to their Depressed Mood. Conclusions: The link between SF and MDD in these girls may need to be based upon their own evaluations of their SF-related behaviour. Implications for assessment and treatment of SP-related MDD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101881
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Early online date11 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021


  • Autism
  • Depressed mood
  • Depression
  • Girls
  • Sensory features

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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