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Autistic traits in Women

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

By Erica Carvalho

Reading time 5 minutes ⏰

Autism is an umbrella term for a few other developmental conditions including autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders. The traits of each condition that falls under the Autism umbrella can vary and the level of traits can vary from individual to individual. Autism is typically diagnosed in childhood although many individuals who are considered to have “high functioning autism” go well into their adult years without receiving a diagnosis. Most individuals who go into adulthood with traits of Autism but no diagnosis express the difficulties they have faced living with the traits of Autism but not knowing that they actually had the condition and thus could not receive the proper assistance or accommodations . Many individuals who went undiagnosed into adulthood express avoiding social events as they find them to be draining and they also express not having interest in getting to know new people. These traits of Autism not only affect the individuals overall academic performance but more so their social and personal lives . Self-reported assessments were not typically used to diagnose Autism as Autism is typically diagnosed in childhood and so many adult females living with traits of Autism who reported them to their doctor were unable to receive an Autism diagnosis .

As many of the traits of high functioning Autism are similar to traits of individual neurological conditions in many situations individuals with Autism were misdiagnosed to have anxiety, social disorders and various other neurological conditions . Although many individuals with Autism exhibited many traits of Autism in their childhood and recount situations and behaviours that would have received a Autism diagnosis in many cases these high functioning individuals went undiagnosed because they excelled academically and in other aspects of their lives and so their caregivers did not attempt to seek out a diagnosis is Autism and instead in many cases brushed off the straits of Autism which then became more troublesome in their adult lives. As many women with Autism excel at mimicking and camouflaging their Autism traits, those around them may not even notice their traits.

It has been shown that Autism shares many similar and overlapping traits with Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) . As these neurological disorders share overlapping traits to Autism such as motor and vocal tics in Tourette Syndrome, obsessive compulsive traits in OCD and hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention in ADHD. Many individuals are diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, OCD or ADHD or diagnosed with a combination of either disorders prior to being diagnosed with Autism. This leads to individuals with Autism living much of their lives with a misdiagnosis and resting in them being medicated incorrectly or not receiving cognitive therapy that may have been beneficial to them. Due to the fact that many women who have Autism are considered to be high functioning it is understandable that many may be misdiagnosed with another neurological condition. A study by Huisman-van et al. interviewed people diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome and their families and discovered many overlapping traits and characteristics to the traits used to diagnose individuals with Autism.

Many adult females who are diagnosed with Autism express feeling sensory overload when introduced to new and different situations that require them to differ from their typical habits. Research by Trevor Powell describes a women who would typically take the underground at the same time on the same day every week to go to the same location but on one occasion there underground had a closure and the women’s routine was diverted when she had to switch trains and experienced more people that she typically would. The women became overwhelmed with all of the new sensations as there was people pushing in shoving. All of the senses became too much for the women to handle . The women who was 40 years old and 8 had not previously been diagnosed with Autism had been exhibiting these traits for much of her life but went undiagnosed as she was able to communicate, travel on her own and even care for herself. Many women who receive later in life diagnosis of Autism express struggles throughout their lives with the various traits and although many were able to care for themselves and communicate the toll of unknowingly living with the traits without a diagnosis effected their personal and social lives, when finally diagnosed many individuals express that they finally were able to receive the help that they needed as well as they finally felt at peace with themselves.

As Autism is an umbrella term the diagnosis, conditions and treatments vary widely as one person who is diagnosed with “Classic Autism” may have communication impairments and may not be able to speak or write but another individual with Autism may has Asperger’s syndrome and may have an above average IQ and may excel in school but may still exhibit some of the same traits as someone with Autism. Due to the different ways Autism is exhibited in many different individuals much more research is needed in order to fully understand the manner in which different people may exhibit their traits and how the traits may affect the day to day lives of a women living with Autism.


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