Anxiety, sensory over-responsivity, and gastrointestinal problems in children with autism spectrum disorders

Micah O. Mazurek, Roma A. Vasa, Luther G. Kalb, Stephen M. Kanne, Daniel Rosenberg, Amy Keefer, Donna S. Murray, Brian Freedman, Lea Ann Lowery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience high rates of anxiety, sensory processing problems, and gastrointestinal (GI) problems; however, the associations among these symptoms in children with ASD have not been previously examined. The current study examined bivariate and multivariate relations among anxiety, sensory over-responsivity, and chronic GI problems in a sample of 2,973 children with ASD enrolled in the Autism Treatment Network (ages 2-17 years, 81.6 % male). Twenty-four percent of the sample experienced at least one type of chronic GI problem (constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or nausea lasting three or more months). Children with each type of GI problem had significantly higher rates of both anxiety and sensory over-responsivity. Sensory over-responsivity and anxiety were highly associated, and each provided unique contributions to the prediction of chronic GI problems in logistic regression analyses. The results indicate that anxiety, sensory over-responsivity and GI problems are possibly interrelated phenomenon for children with ASD, and may have common underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-176
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Anxiety
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Sensory over-responsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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