Article Summary: Mental Health and Affect Regulation Impairment in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Results from the Canadian National FASD Database

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This research was led by two CanFASD Researchers, Jocelynn Cook and Mansfield Mela, as well as CanFASD Managing Director Kathy Unsworth

Along with experiencing mental health issues, regulating one’s emotions, known as affect regulation (AR), is a common challenge for individuals with FASD. The Canadian FASD diagnostic guidelines were updated in 2016 to include a domain for AR, which is impaired when the individual meets diagnostic criteria for depressive disorder(s) or anxiety disorder(s). Using data from  , the authors of the current study examined impairments in AR among children and adults with FASD and how these impairments were related to comorbid mental health disorders.

 Main findings

  • Out of 335 participants, 41% had impaired AR
  • There was no significant difference in IQ between individuals with AR impairment and without
  • Individuals with AR impairment were about 19.1 years old when diagnosed with FASD, while those without AR impairment were roughly 12.5 years old at the time of diagnosis
  • Those with AR impairment were noted as having generally higher neurodevelopmental impairment, with roughly 5.37 more domains of neurodevelopmental impairment, as assessed by the Canadian diagnostic criteria
  • AR impairment meant that individuals were more likely to be diagnosed with attachment disorder, conduct disorder, PTSD, or had experienced suicidal thoughts

Take-home message
Because individuals with FASD are at a particularly high risk of developing additional adverse outcomes, such as mental health disorders, if AR impairments can be detected early, there is an opportunity for proper intervention to prevent attachment disorders, PTSD, suicidality, and other mental health disorders. Future research should examine additional disorders that might fall under affect regulation, how affect regulation might interact with other FASD diagnostic criteria, how other substances affect AR, and how AR is affected in other developmental disorders.

Authors: Valerie K. Temple, Jocelynn L. Cook, Kathy Unsworth, Hasu Rajani, Mansfield Mela

Journal: Alcohol and Alcoholism

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