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Signs & Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Adults

According to Proof Alliance’s latest report, more than 1,700 infants across the globe are born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder each day. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in individuals exposed to alcohol before birth. A person with an FASD may have a mix of lifelong physical, mental, and behavioral problems, ranging from mild to severe.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder affects every individual differently. The most severe fetal alcohol spectrum disorder cases are often detectable at birth, but more minor cases may go undiagnosed for years.

Adults living with untreated FASD may have trouble maintaining relationships, keeping a job, and managing everyday life. In fact, an estimated that up to 80% of adults with FASD cannot live independently.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to diagnose someone who has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Doing so can help you better understand and support your loved one with FASD.

The Indiana Alliance aims to spread FASD awareness and help caregivers understand and support a loved one with the condition. Here is everything you need to know about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder effects in adults.

Primary Effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Adults

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder effects in adulthood vary significantly from person to person. However, the most recognizable signs of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are often the physical and neurological symptoms.

Physical Effects

Many physical effects of FASD persist into adulthood, but they may appear less distinctive with age. Physical characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that last into adulthood include:

Smaller Statures

FASD often causes people to develop slower than usual, resulting in shorter body sizes, lighter body weights, and sometimes smaller head sizes. As a result, an adult with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder may appear smaller than their peers.

Organ Defects

Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder often have organ defects that carry into adulthood. These may include heart and kidney abnormalities, among others. Some people will need ongoing medical care to manage these conditions or to prevent related illnesses down the road.

Some of these physical effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder expressed in adults may be minor and challenging to recognize. However, the physical effects of FASD are not the only external signs that someone has the condition.

Neurological Effects

Other than physical symptoms, individuals with FASD will usually have neurological deficiencies that affect their everyday lives as adults. Common neurodevelopmental symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder include:

Intellectual Difficulties

People with FASD are 23 times more likely to have an intellectual disability, which can present problems in school or at work. For example, they may have trouble understanding information that might seem easy for other people to learn. They may also struggle to follow directions or organize their thoughts well.

Poor Coordination

Many people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder have trouble maintaining balance, which can impact their physical coordination. This may make it difficult for them to take care of themselves or perform daily activities that other adults do without thought.

Memory Problems

Adults with FASD often have a hard time remembering things that just happened, even things they knew well before the event occurred. They may also struggle to put information in a logical order and recall critical details later. This is partly due to a deficiency in long-term memory but may also be related to a lack of motivation or poor concentration skills.

Emotional Challenges:

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in adults can lead to trouble controlling emotions or reacting to situations appropriately. For example, they may experience outbursts during social situations due to a lack of self-control. They may also struggle to recognize other people’s emotional needs and respond accordingly.

Mental Disorders

Many people with FASD are prone to depression, anxiety, and ADHD, affecting their quality of life when left untreated. Without professional therapy or counseling, they will find it difficult to develop coping skills for these issues.

Again, some of these fetal alcohol spectrum disorder effects may be minor or unnoticeable while others can be more pronounced.

Secondary Effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Adults

In addition to physical and neurological symptoms, adults with FASD often have many challenges in daily life. This includes difficulty maintaining employment, getting involved with the law, and maintaining close relationships with friends, family members, or partners.

Adults with FASD often have a tough time finding jobs that fit their skillsets and can be unemployed. This can cause financial problems and strain a person’s self-esteem. Some people with FASD may also develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, making it even more difficult for them to reach their true potential in life.

Unfortunately, individuals with FASD are also more likely to interact with the criminal justice system. In fact, roughly 60% of adults with FASD have contacted law enforcement or the court system due to their actions. This is primarily due to a lack of impulse control, leading people with FASD to react inappropriately. They may also struggle to understand the consequences of their actions.

Finally, many adults with FASD struggle to form healthy relationships. They may not know how to communicate thoughts and feelings correctly with friends or romantic partners. They also may understand their actions in the context of social norms, making them more likely to offend or insult others. This can damage long-term relationships or friendships over time.

Need Help? We’re here for you.

Learning and understanding the symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in adults enables you to better care for those with the condition. For more information about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in adults, browse the Indiana Alliance FASD resources. We’re constantly updating our blogs, web pages, and other publications with new information to help you through the process.

If you have any questions or want to share your personal experiences with FASD, please contact us. We’d love to hear your story.

What is FASD? Check Out Our FASD Resource Directory Drinking & Pregnancy
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