Bipolar disorder in adults with Asperger's Syndrome: A systematic review

Giulia Vannucchi, Gabriele Masi, Cristina Toni, Liliana Dell'Osso, Andreas Erfurth, Giulio Perugi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Asperger's Syndrome (AS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder included in the Autism Spectrum (ASD). The current literature shows growing evidence of a high rate of comorbidity between AS and other psychiatric disorders, particularly Bipolar Disorder (BD). We reviewed available epidemiological and clinical data on BD-AS comorbidity and its diagnostic and therapeutic implications Methods A systematic review of the literature was conducted through PubMed, Scopus and Psych-Info using combinations of the following search terms: Asperger's Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, depression, mood disorder, psychiatric comorbidity, treatment, mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Results BD prevalence in adults with AS ranges from 6% to 21.4% of the cases. Relatives of patients with AS showed a doubled risk of being affected by BD and a BD prevalence near to 10%. When comorbid with AS, BD assumes peculiar features which might shape its under-recognition or misdiagnosis (especially schizophrenia when psychotic symptoms are prominent). Although controlled data on pharmacological treatments in BD-AS comorbidity are substantially lacking, information is derived by open observations, case series and chart reviews. Mood stabilizers should be considered the first choice, and antipsychotics, especially second generation drugs (SGA) with 5-HT2a antagonism, have been shown useful in controlling psychotic and behavioral symptoms and improving social withdrawal. Some evidence of efficacy for the treatment of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and depression is reported for SSRI antidepressants. The use of these drugs should be carefully monitored, because activation with hypomanic or manic switches is reported up to 54% of the treated subjects. Conclusion BD in AS patients is frequent, usually it onsets during adolescence and is often characterized by atypical presentation, making its correct identification particularly difficult. A correct diagnosis of BD in AS individuals has relevant implications on the choice of adequate psychopharmacological, psycho-social and rehabilitative treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Oct 15 2014


  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Psychopharmacological treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Medicine(all)


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