13 Sep 2023

Why do autism symptoms in adults go unnoticed?

Autism can be easily misdiagnosed or undetected among adults, particularly if they mask or don’t display typical traits associated with the condition. Someone who is …

Autism can be easily misdiagnosed or undetected among adults, particularly if they mask or don’t display typical traits associated with the condition.

Someone who is diagnosed with autism later in life may have learned to mask their traits, enabling them to participate in society. However, it’s likely that their autism may have gone undiagnosed or been misdiagnosed with another condition, which resembles ASD-like symptoms, such as ADHD or social anxiety disorder.

This article looks at why symptoms of ASD in adults go unnoticed.

What are the symptoms of autism in adults?

As autism is a spectrum condition, it means that there can be a wide range of symptoms associated with it.

Some of the most common symptoms for adults with autism include:

  • Difficulty communicating with others.
  • Picking up on social cues.
  • Reading people’s facial expressions.
  • Understanding sarcasm.
  • Joining and holding a conversation.

Other common symptoms for adults with autism include having narrow interests and preferring a regular routine that’s both predictable and stable.

Misdiagnosed as a child

For an adult who has been recently diagnosed with ASD, it’s not uncommon to have had a misdiagnosis with another condition as a child.

Over the past few decades, there has been more research done around autism, as well as how the diagnosis for the condition has changed. According to a study done by multiple academics, it found that the recorded incidence for autism diagnoses had increased exponentially by 787% from 1998 to 2018. Adults who displayed the same symptoms of autism when they were children did not have a diagnosis until they were older.

Autism symptoms can easily overlap with other conditions, meaning that they may be diagnosed with other conditions such as OCD, ADHD and social anxiety disorder to name but a few.

It’s only later in life that they may end up being diagnosed with autism as an adult.

Mask social communication difficulties

Children who exhibit signs of autism earlier on in life will have learned to mask their social communication difficulties.

As time goes on, the schoolwork required from the child becomes more demanding and ambiguous, they may show common signs of autism. A lack of eye contact, rocking and obsessive behaviours that may be mistaken for anxiety.

Over time, they may end up unmasking their traits due to having to spend their whole lives pretending to be someone they’re not or end up having an autistic burnout.

Difficulty making friends  

Adults who have been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed with autism early on in life may find making meaningful, long-term friendships with other people difficult. Instead, they may prefer to pursue individual activities over group ones due to them finding regular social interactions difficult and draining.

How to get an autism diagnosis as an adult with The Autism Service

Wondered why you’ve always been different to your peers at work and at home? The Autism Service offers Adult ASD Assessments to help adults get a clear answer for their autism diagnosis.

All our adult autism assessments are NICE-guideline compliant, allowing you to get a full diagnostic assessment to find out if you have ASD or not. Our clinics are located across the UK, so whether you are based in England or Wales, you can book an autism assessment at a location that’s convenient for yourself or your child.

Want to know more about how we do autism assessments for adults? You can contact one of our friendly team members, based in our Head Office in Shrewsbury today. They’ll be able to answer any questions you may have about the autism assessment process, alongside booking an assessment with us.

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