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8 often-overlooked signs of autism that are most common in women, according to specialists from Business Insider

Article Excerpt from Business Insider

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental condition that impacts communication, behavior, and learning. It affects about 2.2% of adults in the US and is estimated to be about four times more common in adult men than women, but take this statistic with a grain of salt.

Research on autism was mostly done on boys and men, so it’s likely that women are underrepresented among people with autism diagnoses, says Jessica Myszak, a licensed psychologist and director of The Help and Healing Center, which provides autism evaluations and other psychological screenings.

And that’s not only a problem for statistical estimates but, more importantly, it’s a serious issue for diagnosis.

“Adult women and those who are assigned female at birth will likely have a more difficult time finding an adequate autism evaluation,” Myszak says.

Up to 80% of women with autism are misdiagnosed, says Sarah Lister Brook, clinical director of the National Autistic Society in the UK. Yet, it’s important for adult women who suspect they might have ASD to get a diagnosis, which can feel validating and unlock resources.

“Autistic women and girls often face additional barriers, with many having to live their whole lives without an autism diagnosis, an understanding of who they are, and vital support,” Lister Brook says.

Signs of Autism in adult women

The diagnostic criteria for autism is the same for all genders and ages. But those criteria can present differently in adult women, Myszak says.

People may be familiar with symptoms of autism in children, like stimming — self-soothing with repetitive motions like hand flapping or rocking. Symptoms of autism in adults, however, are more subtle and include things like anxiety and or spending more time alone.

Women with autism often also mask their autism symptoms in order to conform to social expectations, says Lister Brook. However, this can be mentally taxing and can lead to burnout, says Sharon Kaye-O’Connor, an autistic psychotherapist and autism educator with Idlewild Intuitive.

Masking can make symptoms less apparent to others, but women with autism and people close to them may notice the following symptoms:

  1. Friendships feel tough
  2. Social exhaustion
  3. Feeling different
  4. Focused interests
  5. Sensory overload
  6. Emotional dysregulation
  7. Desire for certainty
  8. Mood disorders

Click here to read more about autism in women.