Studies have shown that it is more difficult to identify autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in women than it is in men as the diagnostic criteria was made keeping men in mind.
ASD are a group of neurological and developmental conditions that affect communication, learning, and behaviour. Globally, one in every 100 children has autism, according to a report by the World Health Organisation. However, some studies have shown that women are more affected by the disorder than men.
In the United States, ASD is four times more likely to be found in women than men. Unfortunately, however, research on autism was mostly done on males historically. Jessica Myszak, a licensed psychologist and director of The Help and Healing Center, told Insider that “women are underrepresented among people with autism diagnoses”.
“Adult women and those who are assigned female at birth will likely have a more difficult time finding an adequate autism evaluation,” Myszak was quoted as saying in an Insider report.
Another expert, Sarah Lister, clinical director of the National Autistic Society in the UK, said that nearly 80% of women with autism can be misdiagnosed.
“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 said.
Signs of Autism in women
While the diagnostic criteria is mostly same for all genders and ages, the condition can present itself differently in adult women, Myszak explained.
In children, autism, especially the more intense ones, is easily spotted. Repetitive motions like rocking and issues with communication are noticeable. In adults, however, the signs of autism are more subtle which can add to the anxiety already associated with the condition.
Autistic women also learn to hide their symptoms, experts believe, due to societal pressure. This constant masking can cause burnout. Following are some symptoms that women with autism can have.
Exhaustion from social life
Since they are always hiding their symptoms unknowingly, women with autism can often feel more exhausted than they should be. Social life can especially leave them tired.
Friendships can be challenging
Social interactions and interpersonal communication can be challenging thing for women with ASD. While women are able to overcome these feelings, “friendships can feel like hard work”.
They feel different
They may frequently feel “different” from others, often hiding “who they really are.” They might adopt personalities from other people like authority figures and fictional characters.
Hyper-focus is another symptom of ASD. They are interested in multiple things (that other women might not like as such) and their knowledge on these topics is profound.
Autistic women can have many emotional ups and downs and face difficulty in regulating emotions.
Another common ASD symptom also found in women with autism is sensory overload. They may feel overwhelmed by smells, sounds and other sensory stimuli. Women end up finding their own personalised solutions like wearing loose clothes and staying away from noisy spaces.
Need of certainty
Predictable routines are very important for them as they thrive when they know what will happen next. Tolerating uncertainty like sudden plans can be quite challenging and disturbing.
Many ASD women are misdiagnosed and told they have mood disorders like bipolar, depression and anxiety.