Autism One of Several Disorders on the Rise

Autism One of Several Disorders on the Rise

Recent reports have circulated regarding the rise in autism diagnoses among U.S. children. According to USA Today, autism rates have jumped 30 percent between 2008 and 2010 and one in 68 8-year-olds is now believed to suffer from the condition. Just one generation ago, autism was virtually unheard of. But today, autism is just one of several mental and behavioral disorders that are on the rise.

Autism first appeared in the 1940s.  It is a disorder that makes it difficult for people to learn to interact socially with others, to communicate, and to enjoy a wide variety of activities.  A person with autism may have difficulty maintaining eye contact with others or relate to how someone is feeling.  People with autism may have trouble initiating conversation and understanding humor.

So far, researchers are unsure just what causes autism and autism spectrum disorders.  One hypothesis is that autism is genetic and occurs in children whose parents decided to start a family later in life.  Other hypotheses are that autism is linked to childhood vaccinations.   According to Autism Society, the causes of autism involve “abnormalities in brain structure or function.”

Another increasingly diagnosed condition in addition to autism is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.  This is found not just in children, but also in adults.  The New York Times reported last year that 11 percent of U.S. children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) and cited that this indicates a “marked rise” in A.D.H.D. diagnoses over the past ten years, making it yet one of several disorders that is increasingly on the rise in the 21st century.

Those that suffer from A.D.H.D. (which may or may not include the hyperactivity component)  may display inattentiveness, inability to finish tasks or pay attention to details, procrastination, and impulsivity that interfere with a person’s ability to work, study, or socialize.  Some believe that, unlike the case with autism, A.D.H.D. cases are increasing due to advancements in technology and our seemingly constant need to multitask and to be connected at all times.

Yet another condition that has made news recently in addition to autism is narcissism, a personality disorder that a involves preoccupation with ones’ self and how one is perceived by others as well as a lack of empathy and compassion for others.  While some narcissism is healthy, some researchers claim that the generation of Millennials, young people who were born between roughly the years 1980 and 2000, display unhealthy levels of self-absorbtion created by practices such as “over-parenting” and today’s technological innovations and social media that encourage the taking of “selfies” (digital self-portraits), and the constant use of “self-assessment quizzes” on facebook and other social networking sites.   According to a recent report by  International Business Times, scientists have discovered a connection between selfies, addictions and mental illness.

The same newspaper quoted Pamela Rutledge’s comment in Psychology Today where she claims that selfies allow for “self-indulgence” and “attention-seeking social dependence”. From looking at several new articles published on the topic, it is clear that narcissism is considered, like autism, yet another disorder on the rise.

While it is unclear how many rising cases of these conditions, including autism, are cases of over-diagnosis, nonetheless, it is important to be aware of these important conditions of our century and consider their causes, consequences, and far-reaching effects. One disorder is autism, but several others are also on the rise.

By Amber Workman

Autism Society
International Business Times
The New York Times
USA Today

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