Schizophrenia and autism

My son, 27, was diagnosed with high functioning autism five years ago, which was more helpful than previous diagnoses. But it’s recently become clear he suffers from schizophrenia. I am so perplexed about why the autism experts almost never talk about schizophrenia, and the schizophrenia experts almost never talk about autism, when the amount of overlap is massive.
It’s been important for me to learn that currently schizophrenia is considered to have positive symptoms (things that are present that shouldn’t be, basically psychosis), negative symptoms ( things that are lacking—severe disorganization, lack of awareness about the symptoms, difficulties with planning and goal-setting, depression, anxiety), and cognitive impairments with higher order things like theory of mind (eg interpreting others’ body language). What seems to happen is once the positive symptoms appear during frontal lobe maturation in the late teens some doctor says, “Ah, it’s schizophrenia” and it turns out the negative symptoms and cognitive impairments have been there from early childhood and showed up on neuropsych evaluations from childhood. At least that’s what’s happened to us, and I’ve heard so many similar stories.


In the same boat. Daughter diagnosed with autism and now 22 and it is schizophrenia. Does she have 2 things or just one? Need more research. Very difficult situation when psychosis hits. Try using the autism help plus added in the help for persons with alzheimer’s disease. Their suggestions on how to help have worked for us. Not sure why this is the case but have DH with perhaps mild cognitive impairment so while researching that found ways to help our daughter. Psychiatrists have not been that helpful but working with a new one so maybe help is on the way. Are these diagnoses all connected in some way?

I believe that this might help with the history of diagnostic criteria from PsychCentral:

“Autism wasn’t conceptually separated from SSD until 1971Trusted Source. The change wasn’t technically acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until the 4th edition was released in 1994.

Nowadays, each condition has different diagnostic criteria. You need to meet these criteria in order to get a diagnosis from a health professional. These criteria include causes, symptoms, age of onset, and, in some cases, need for symptom management.“

As a parent, however, the diagnosis is one step in the walk along a winding road of finding help for our loved ones.

My son used to call himself autistic in high school. I didn’t think anything of it at the time; I thought he was using the phrase to express his discomfort with high school social anxiety. Much like I experienced in high school.

We are a family of various degrees of social anxiety. I mean that in the most loving way. I was a nerd girl who liked animals and snakes before it was cool. My husband is borderline autistic but never formally diagnosed. It runs in his family. So does schizophrenia.

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I wasn’t aware of the correlation, but thanks to your post I started looking into it. I found this: Autism Spectrum Disorders and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders: Excitation/Inhibition Imbalance and Developmental Trajectories

It’s a highly technical article that won’t be of much use to most of us, but it starts off this way:

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) share clinical and genetic components that have long been recognized. The two disorders co-occur more frequently than would be predicted by their respective prevalence, suggesting that a complex, multifactor association is involved. However, DSM-5 maintains the distinction between ASD, with core social and communication impairments, and SSD, including schizophrenia (SCZ), with hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder as essential features. ASD and SSD have common biological underpinnings that may emerge early in development and unfold over time.

Thank you It may true in some cases such as my daughter’s case. Need more research into all the mental health disorders. My daughter also has a seizure disorder and a lower IQ. Very difficult for professionals to come up with a diagnosis that sticks.