Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) frequently have challenges with regulating emotional arousal, or affect regulation (AR), and experience high rates of mental health disorders. This study examined children and adults with FASD to investigate the relationship between AR impairment and several mental health problems and diagnoses.
Data from the Canadian national FASD database was used for analysis. Seven mental health diagnoses, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, conduct disorder, attachment disorder, intellectual disability, and language disorder were examined. A history of suicidality was also examined. The prevalence of these mental health problems in individuals with and without AR impairment was compared.
Individuals with FASD and AR impairment were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with conduct disorder (OR 4.8), attachment disorder (OR 6.1), or post-traumatic stress disorder (OR 8.1) when compared to those without AR impairment. They were also more likely to have a history of suicidality (OR 8.6). AR impairment was most commonly found in those with greater overall neurodevelopmental impairment. Having AR impairment was associated with receiving a diagnosis of FASD at a later age, but was not related to gender, intellectual disability, or language disorder.
AR impairment is strongly related to several mental health diagnoses in those with FASD and presents some promising possibilities for targeted early intervention.