Behavioral addiction and autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review

Academic Article


  • Background: According to DSM-5 criteria, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by deficiencies in social communication and interaction along with the presence of restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior. Few studies have explored the prevalence of behavioral addiction in individuals with ASD. Since addiction and ASD share common characteristics, individuals with ASD may be more vulnerable to addictive behaviors. Some typical behavioral addictions include internet, gaming, and gambling addiction. While most previous studies on ASD and addiction have looked at chemical addiction, behavioral addiction has not been thoroughly studied to date. Aims: The objective of this study was to investigate the presence of behavioral addiction among individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Methods and procedures: A systematic literature search of five databases was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. Search results were reviewed for the predetermined inclusion criteria independently by two authors. Outcomes and results: The search yielded 539 publications after the removal of duplicates. 61 met the inclusion criteria for title and abstract review. Full texts were reviewed resulting in an additional 31 being removed. The remaining 30 included 4 case reports and 26 original studies. Results included 27 studies that found a positive correlation (15 of significance, 12 of unknown significance) between a behavioral addiction and either ASD or Autistic traits, 1 found a significant negative correlation, 3 did not find a correlation. Conclusions and implications: This review is inconclusive about links between ASD and behavioral addictions. While a vast majority of studies show a positive correlation, many do not provide the statistical analysis to show if the correlations are significant. In addition, a positive correlation between ASD and behavioral addiction is observed in the presence of comorbid mental health conditions in many of the studies. Further research with proper controls and statistical analysis is needed to determine whether the development of behavioral addiction is directly influenced by ASD or if the presence of a comorbid mental health condition is the true cause.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kervin R; Berger C; Moon SJ; Hill H; Park D; Kim JW
  • Volume

  • 117