There are many cases when adults are not diagnosed with autism when adults because they have chosen not to have an assessment or they are not aware that they are autistic and they haven’t been accessed as children.
Their symptoms may be mild, difficult to be recognized, and may not impact their everyday life significantly. There is a possibility that they received another diagnosis for their symptoms, or they just simply do not want to get tested because it may cost them and for some other reasons.
Some adults may find their life difficult, while those with mild autism ( high functioning ) autism may just sometimes notice that they act differently from others or their families may notice that they behave differently.
Signs Of Autism In Adults
Symptoms in adults are different than those in children and are often related to social and communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors.
The most common symptoms of autism in adults include :
- They always speak just about one or two topics of interests
- They feel discomfort during eye contact
- They tend to take things literally, which can cause difficulties in communication
- They tend to engage in repetitive or routine behaviors
- They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling
- They have unusual emotional expressions and reactions
- They have problems with making new friends and keeping them
- They have trouble reading social cues
- Their speaking is robotic, monotonous and they use a flat voice that doesn’t reflect their emotions and feelings
- They use their own unique phrases and descriptive words
- They may find small talk such as talking about the weather and what others are doing difficult
- They have difficulties doing multi-tasking activities
- They have a strong reaction to some sounds, textures, smells, and tastes
- They like to work alone at home and at work
- They have superior ability in just one subject, for example, mathematics or some other discipline
What Are The 3 Main Symptoms Of Autism In Adults?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by some brain differences. Every person who is diagnosed with ASD is a unique case and doesn’t resemble another ASD case in terms of symptoms and severity.
However, the 3 most common autism symptoms in adults are:
- Problems with social communication
- Repetitive and restrictive behavior
- Restricted interests
Repetitive behaviors mean intense interests and obsessions, strict layouts, and restricted schedules.
Problems with social communication mean problems when communicating and understanding what other people think or say.
Restricted interests mean interest that can be sometimes unusual or interest in just one topic of interest and speaking about it constantly.
How To Get Yourself Tested For Autism As An Adult?
If you are interested in getting tested for ASD as an adult, you can consult your family doctor, who may check your symptoms and see whether they are related to autism, or maybe they refer to some other health condition and may refer you to visit a psychologist or a psychiatrist to make an in-depth assessment.
There are some medical diagnostic tests that clinicians have already developed and you should visit a doctor in person to ask you some questions. They will also take your symptoms into consideration when making the evaluation. They will make some additional observations and ask questions about your childhood and your lifelong patterns as the earliest symptoms of autism appear in childhood when they are most severe and apparent.
Most autism centers are child-focused and sometimes, child psychiatrists can help you with the autism diagnosis. There are also psychologists and psychiatrists that are specialists in diagnosing ASD and you can consider finding them in some big universities and medical centers where you can get tested for autism as an adult.
The most common diagnostic autism tests are:
1. Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R): This test contains 93 questions that focus mainly on the 3 main characteristics of autism such as social interaction, repetitive behavior, and language and communication for an autism assessment in adults.
2. Developmental, Dimensional, and Diagnostic Interview-Adult Version (3Di-Adult): This test looks for any not typical and obsessive behaviors such as obsession with certain objects and focuses mainly on problems with social communication.
3. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2) Module 4: This test is the gold standard for people of all ages.
If you want to know how much autism tests cost, you may check the prices of the clinic you will visit as they may range. Sometimes they can be rather costly and if you are not paying with insurance, you need to pay all the costs out of your pockets. The average cost for full screenings in private companies can be as high as $2000.
Self – Administrated Online Tests For Testing Autism In Adults
These tests are for personal use only and are not real diagnostic tools, and the real diagnosis can be made only with a clinical evaluation.
What Do Autistic Adults Struggle With?
Some autistic adults may struggle with many issues when they are diagnosed with ASD such as:
- Fixation on routines
- Sensitivity to sound and light
- Difficulty in social interaction
Adults who experience these symptoms may find it difficult to live independent lives and some of them can have difficulty finding a proper job. One study with autistic participants showed that 27% of them were unemployed. (1)
Some autistic people do not require any support and autism becomes part of their own identity and may even have very high intelligence, unique sense of humor, and strong memory.
People who struggle with their condition may seek help in the following:
People living with autism can learn more about it to understand it better, find some solutions, and feel validated.
They may experience stress, anxiety, and feeling of isolation, and visiting a therapist may be the right choice for them. The most common therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy which can be taken either individually or in a group setting.
3. Vocational rehabilitation
Some autistic people may find their workplace uncomfortable to work at as being too noisy, too light, or they need to travel a long way to get there. Vocational rehabilitation may help them to cope with their career challenges. Some employers may also make appropriate accommodations for neurodivergent individuals such as people with autism. (2)
4. Connection with other autistic people
Some adults with autism may find it useful to connect with other autistic people and take part in some online groups or in-person meetings.
These meetings may give them additional ideas and information on how to face their problems in life. One program showed that peer support could influence an autistic person’s life in a very positive manner. (3)
5. Medication for anxiety and depression
There is no medication for ASD, but some medications can be used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression that can co-occur with ASD.
Can Anxiety Be Mistaken For Autism?
Autistic people may be prone to anxiety and to someone who is not very familiar with ASD, autism, and anxiety may look similar.
But, in fact, many of the symptoms of both conditions may overlap and appear at the same time, such as:
- difficulty adapting to changing plans
- lack of eye contact
- limited social communication
How are they different?
Social anxiety is a mental health condition, while autism is a neurodevelopmental condition.
They have different diagnostic criteria and it is very important to get a diagnosis from a licensed professional.
People with social anxiety may avoid conversations and eye contact because of fear, while autistic people may sometimes not speak at all, or engage in one – side conversation.
Social anxiety can be a result of a trauma, while autism is not triggered by any traumatic event.
The brain functioning is also different for both health conditions, and adults with autism have a weaker connection between the temporal lobe and the amygdala.
Other Mental Conditions Mistaken For Autism
Some autism symptoms are similar to symptoms of other conditions and they can be mistaken for autism and can cause a problem.
Conditions that can be mistaken for autism are:
1. Problems with hearing and speech or other developmental delays
some children may have development delays in hearing in speech which can be caused by other causes and can be development delays, but this doesn’t mean that they have autism.
2. Reading early or high intelligence
Hyperlexia is a syndrome when a child is obsessed with learning letters and numbers and starts reading very early, beyond expected ability. In some cases can be part of ASD, but this is not always the case.
3. Sensory or sensory processing issues
Some children may be sensitive to loud music, light, or textures, which are signs of autism, but not necessarily in all cases.
4. Other psychological disorders
Psychological disorders like schizophrenia, Reactive attachment disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Avoidant personality disorder may have similar symptoms to autism, but they aren’t.
5. Lead poisoning
Lead poisoning may lead to development delays and sometimes to autism, according to some scientists, but this is not yet proven scientifically. That is why it is very important to diagnose a child or an adult if there are any chances they are lead poisoned to get the needed treatment.
6. Narrowed interests
Some children or adults may get obsessed with some objects or people and do not have many interests, but this doesn’t mean that they are autistic.
Ana Miller is a creative writer. Her topics of interest and expertise range from psychology to all sorts of disciplines such as science and news.