Mental Health Problems

Individuals with FASD tend to have more mental health issues than the general population. Researchers have found that as many as 83-94% of children, adolescents, and adults with prenatal alcohol exposure struggle with mental illness. Some of the most common mental health issues that show up with FASD are depression and other mood disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder (an emotional and behavioural disorder of childhood involving inappropriate and antisocial behaviours), and anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder.

Other common mental health issues for those with FASD are low self esteem, and oppositional defiant disorder (this may look like definace, argumentativeness, and disobedience).

Higher rates of suicide thoughts and attempts, drug and alcohol dependence, and personality disorders have been found in older adolescents and adults with prenatal alcohol exposure.

Some contributing factors to these mental health issues may be:

  • Poor environment (such as abusive relationships, instability in living situation, etc.)
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Intellectual and developmental problems may lead to social problems, which in turn may lead to mental health problems

Some areas of mental health that can improve for people with FASD using the right intervention:

  • Increased self esteem and motivation
  • Social functioning and inclusion
  • Not needing confinement or hospitalization (some studies have shown that anywhere from 23-50% of individuals with FASD and mental health diagnoses have been hospitalized for their mental health problems)
  • Reducing conduct problems which may lead to less delinquent behaviour and avoiding jail time
  • Reducing drug or alcohol abuse


Working with Perfectionist Anxiety -Nathan E. Ory
Ory offers strategies to move individuals past their fear of not performing activities perfectly.

Mental Health Problems in Individuals with PAE and FASD
Video webinar with handouts by Dr. Carmen Rasmussen and Dr. Jacqueline Pei: review of research and mental health problems in the FASD population and the implications for interventions (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Medication Management in FASD
Video webinar with handouts by Dr.David Shih: Contains information on steps to take before using medications, medication for treating insomnia, aggression, anxiety disorders, ADHD and mood disorders in FASD as well as what these medications can and cannot do (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Reactive Attachment Disorder and FASD: A Bio-Psychosocial Model for Diagnosis and Treatment
Video webinar with handouts by Andrew Bremness, MD and Wanda Polzin, EdD. Explains normal attachment, attachment disorders, and intervention strategies for attachment disorders in FASD (from FASD CMC Alberta)

FASD and Mental Health Treatment: A Multimodal Approach to Transgenerational Issues
Video webinar with handouts by Dr. Kieran O'Malley. Discusses issues of dual diagnosis in FASD (i.e. developmental diagnosis along with psychiatric diagnosis) and treatment as a transgeneraltional multimodal approach (from FASD CMC Alberta)

What Do We Mean by Trauma-Informed Care?
Video webinar with handouts presented by Dr. Nancy Poole. A general informative video discussing the impact of trauma and understanding the role of "trauma-informed care" (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Grief and Loss: Strategic Support for Clients
Video webinar with handouts presented by Brenda Knight, R. Psych. Overview of grief and loss including ways to resolve and deal with issues of grief and loss (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Psychological Issues in Children and Adults with FASD
Video webinar with handouts presented by Brenda Knight, R. Psych. Discusses the psychological issues associated with FASD, including additional issues for children with FASD in foster or adoptive homes, and intervention considerations (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Animal Assisted Therapy and Clients with FASD
Video webinar with handouts presented by Kristine Aanderson. Discusses therapy for individuals with disabilities using animals and the possible benefits of this kind of therapy, including mental health benefits (from FASD CMC Alberta)

Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): A Comprehensive Guide For Pre-K -8 Educators
FASD overview, teaching and learning strategies for the classroom (Written by Chandra D. Zieff, M.Ed. and Rochelle D. Schwartz-Bloom, Ph.D.)
Self esteem: p. 83-86