The perceived causal relations between sensory reactivity differences and anxiety symptoms in autistic adults. / Verhulst, Isabelle; MacLennan, Keren; Haffey, Anthony; Tavassoli, Teresa.

In: Autism in Adulthood, 12.01.2022.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Rates of anxiety are inordinately high in autistic adults. Sensory reactivity differences, such as hyperreactivity (e.g., strong reactions to sound), hyporeactivity (e.g., no, or slower reactions to pain), and seeking (e.g., fascination with spinning objects) are a diagnostic criterion of autism and have been linked with anxiety. Understanding how individuals perceive these to be causally related can impact assessment and treatment of anxiety. Therefore, we examined the perceived causal relations between sensory reactivity differences and anxiety in autistic adults.
246 autistic adults aged 18 – 76 years took part in an online study. They completed self-report assessments of sensory reactivity differences, and anxiety, followed by the perceived causal relations scale; indicating if they perceived their sensory reactivity differences to be more of a cause or an effect of their anxiety symptoms.
Sensory reactivity differences were found to be significantly related to anxiety. Furthermore, total sensory hyperreactivity and visual, auditory, and olfactory hyperreactivity was perceived to be more of a cause of anxiety, whilst total sensory seeking and tactile and vestibular seeking was perceived to be more of an effect of anxiety. Therefore, sensory hyperreactivity and sensory seeking may be important to consider in anxiety treatments for autistic individuals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Publication statusSubmitted - 12 Jan 2022
This open access research output is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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