Social Interaction in People With Autism: The Link Between Anxiety and Social Communication Deficits
Individuals with Autism exhibit “abnormalities in social and communication development, in the presence of marked repetitive behavior and limited imagination” (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). One of the most prominent issues for people with Autism is their tendency to experience difficulties in social interaction. They tend to lack conversational skills, find it difficult participate in social events and are often seen to behave in a generally strange manor (Kanne, Christ, & Reiersen, 2009). The reason for this lack of social interaction is unclear. It is possible that people with Autism are simply not interested in social interaction, however it is more plausible that this lack of social interaction is due to heightened anxiety in social situations.
Research has identified that those with significant Autistic-like traits are more prone to loneliness. Loneliness implies that these individuals are not content in being by themselves and are experiencing negative feelings as a result (Bauminger, Shulman, & Agam, 2003). Furthermore, research has illustrated that many individuals with Autism have expressed a desire to develop friendships and sexual relationships (Jobe & White, 2007). These results indicate a desire to engage in social activities; therefore it seems likely that this avoidance of social interactions is due to elevated anxiety rather than disinterest.
One recent study compared the anxiety levels in children with autism, with the anxiety levels of two control groups. The results indicated that the children with autism had “considerably higher” anxiety than the control groups (Gillott, Furniss & Walter, 2001). An alternative study examined the link between autism and anxiety in adolescents. Similarly, the results indicated significantly higher anxiety in people with autism. Both studies listed a limited sample size as a limitation, and...