Autism, Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Autism, Schizophrenia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are three mental health conditions that affect how people think, feel, and behave.



Autism is a neurocognitive (having to do with the ability to think and reason) disorder that occurs in children. Until recently it may often go unnoticed if it is mild. Now we understand that this disorder can have a variety of appearances, but they will always be in communication and social connection. There can be other disorders, happening at the same time, that can also affect the child. Often mild Autism appears unusual or odd. Severe autism is noticeable with hand flapping or head banging behaviors. The child is often not able to communicate their needs and so they seek to communicate/stimulate themselves in some way. This can lead to behaviors that appear aggressive or self-harming but is usually a way to try to calm themselves or soothe their internal experience. Autism has not been shown to be caused by vaccinations or medications of any kind. It is shown to have some genetic links and a variety of other small contributions.

The markers for autism are:

  • Lowered social emotional reciprocity—can’t play with peers or others, they may not even acknowledge others in play, but prefer to play alongside others or alone.
  • Setbacks in non-verbal communication where they do not understand social cues or eye contact or body language.
  • Difficulty developing or maintaining social relationships with peers. They often do not know how to imagine or show interest in playing with others.
  • They may also have movements they repeat as a form of self-soothing or calming, like flapping, rocking, making sounds, etc.
  • Insistence on the same routine and is activated when changes in schedule occur.
  • Highly restricted interests or fixated on certain areas of interest. Stickers, certain foods, objects of movement, etc.
  • Over-reactive or under-reactive to sounds, lights, touch, or other sensory elements of their environment. They can smell certain things obsessively or touch things they like as self-soothing. They can be overly sensitive to things that make them feel uncomfortable or agitated.

These symptoms need to be across all settings and can range from mild to severe which suggests the spectrum of this disorder. A Behavioral Health Consultant can best assist the family and child in understanding and communicating to each other needs and safe behaviors.

Schizophrenia and Thought Disorders

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The person with this disorder will have the following issues:

  • Delusions—odd thinking like they are the savior of the world.
  • Hallucinations—see things that you and others cannot see.
  • Disorganized speech patterns—speech can be odd or out of order or word salad-which makes no sense.
  • Extremely disorganized or catatonic behavior—movements are odd and body seems uncoordinated or lack of movement, barely moving.
  • Negative symptoms which are lack of emotions or expressions—showing no emotions or expressions on their face.

This can occur in short term or long term, but this requires an assessment, as this person can be a danger to themselves or others because they do not respond to normal stimulus and seem not aware of their surroundings.

There is a strong genetic link for people who have this disorder. Studies continue to search for links to other brain diseases. Behavioral therapy, group management, and medication are the best forms of symptom reduction at this time.

PTSD and Adjustment after Trauma

Traumatic stress can cause symptoms to appear in people who experience life threatening events that expose them to possible death, serious injury, or sexual assault.

Witnessing a direct event like one of these can cause a person to experience typical problems such as:

  • Being present and experiencing an event happen to themselves or witnessing it happen to another person.
  • Learning of a traumatic event that happened to someone close to them.
  • Experiencing repeated exposure to a negative event (like repetitive abuse).

They will have one of the following:

  • Frequent unintentional disturbing memories or triggers of the past event
  • Frequent dreams where the event is fully or partially replayed
  • Disconnection reactions, flashback, where it feels like it’s happening to them
  • Intense lengthy periods where internal or external signals are replaying the event for them
  • Physical symptoms, where they can actually feel the events happening to their body as part of their memory stirs
  • Frequent avoidance of things that resemble or trigger memories of the trauma

These persons often feel as if they are bad or defective to have had this terrible thing happen to them. They will feel separated from others, as if no one can understand them, and have reduced space for feelings of good or self-worth. They may have twisted memories of the event or unrealistic recall.

Most often along with the above symptoms they will feel on edge and have an excessive startle response, they might act in reckless ways or be self-harming, they have trouble concentrating or sleeping well.

A trauma can have long-term effects and repeated traumatic events can impact a person across the span of their health and well-being. If you have had a life-threatening event, it would be wise to talk to your doctor about assessing for traumatic events to help improve your health over the long term.

The recent studies about Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) shows that having multiple events such as these can have long-term effects on illness. Getting proper care for this can help people live longer, healthier, and more satisfying lives. Trauma is said to be a disorder of time in that people are often reliving their traumatic time in daily events without realizing it. In research of epigenetics (the study of how your behaviors and surroundings can cause changes that affect the way your genes work), bodies store the trauma in their cells and DNA, and this can pass on through their gene expression (gene expression is the process by which the instructions in our DNA are converted into a functional product, such as a protein) to their children. This is powerful new research showing that getting help for trauma can have impacts for yourself and your children. Look to your healthcare professional for help.