Anxiety disorders and sensory over-responsivity in children with autism spectrum disorders: Is there a causal relationship?

Shulamite A. Green, Ayelet Ben-Sasson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Anxiety disorders and sensory over-responsivity (SOR) are common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and there is evidence for an association between these two conditions. Currently, it is unclear what causal mechanisms may exist between SOR and anxiety. We propose three possible theories to explain the association between anxiety and SOR: (a) SOR is caused by anxiety; (b) Anxiety is caused by SOR; or (c) SOR and anxiety are causally unrelated but are associated through a common risk factor or diagnostic overlap. In this paper, we examine support for each theory in the existing anxiety, autism, and neuroscience literature, and discuss how each theory informs choice of interventions and implications for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1504
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This manuscript required the integration of multiple disciplines, and thus the authors are extremely grateful to have had input from individuals in the fields of occupational therapy, neuroscience, anxiety, and autism, and in particular Michelle Craske, Ph.D., Bram Vervliet, Ph.D., and David Shirinyan, Ph.D. The author Shulamite A. Green was supported in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Grant number: 34879-1459 (Drs. Keith Crnic, Bruce Baker, and Jan Blacher PIs). The author Ayelet Ben-Sasson was supported by a European International Reintegration Grant (# 203715).


  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Hyperarousal
  • Sensory defensiveness
  • Sensory over-responsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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