Prader Willi

Mental health difficulties in Williams, Prader-Willi & fragile X syndromes


A recent paper published in 2019 has described and compared a number of characteristics that are associated with mental health in adolescents and adults with Williams, fragile X and Prader-Willi syndromes.  Individuals with these syndromes may experience different types of mental health difficulties. For example, people with fragile X syndrome may be more likely to experience social anxiety disorder than individuals with Prader-Willi or Williams syndrome.  Because of this, causes of mental health problems in these syndromes may also differ and understanding the differences can help us understand how best to help individuals.


The research showed that there was differences in the characteristics associated with different psychopathological disorders in these syndromes.  Poorer adaptive functioning in Prader-Willi syndrome was associated with a higher total mental health score and higher levels of general anxiety and manic/hyperactive behaviours but was not associated with any mental health difficulties in fragile X or Williams syndrome.  For Williams syndrome, the presence of health difficulties was associated with emotional difficulties, and auditory sensory processing difficulties were associated with social avoidance. It was further suggested that problems with hyperacusis (sensitive hearing) in Williams syndrome may be a specific risk marker for the development of mental health problems in these individuals.


The results from this study highlight how complex the causes of mental health difficulties in individuals with genetic syndromes are and how a consideration of a person’s diagnosis may help in understanding what may be contributing to a person’s experience.  However, it is important to note that there are still differences across individuals who have the same syndrome and so a person-centred approach is also required.


You can download the full research paper here:


Royston et al. (2019) - Original research article


We have also collaborated with Cerebra to write a guide on anxiety in neurodevelopmental disorders, you can find this on our Guides for Parents page.

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