NHS explains top signs of autism in girls and women that most people miss

By Staff

The NHS have explained the signs out autism in girls and woman that most people miss due to masking. Diagnosis of a neurodivergent disorder like autism can be exceptionally helpful to the person affected and can explain years of behaviour which might otherwise have been a mystery.

But getting to a stage where a diagnosis is difficult, like almost any medical problem. This is particularly the case with women for a number of reasons.

Studies show that they are more likely to have what’s known as an ‘autism mask’, the NHS said. The National Autistic Society defined masking as “a strategy used by some autistic people, consciously or unconsciously, to appear non-autistic in order to blend in and be more accepted in society.”

READ MORE: Chris Packham: ‘I loathed myself and thought I was broken before autism diagnosis’

Masking individuals tightly control how they express themselves based on the anticipated reactions of others in the moment and over time. Others describe it as hyper-vigilance for the constant adaptation to the preferences and expectations of the people around you.

The NHS has singled out specific common characteristics of women with autism which often means it is more difficult to tell if a woman is autistic. Masking, as we have said is the standout feature where autistic women have learned to hide signs of autism to ‘fit in’ – by copying people who do not have autism

Autistic women may be more likely to be quieter and hide their feelings too, the NHS said, again making the condition harder to detect. They also are more likely to appear to cope better in social situations, tying in with the masking side of things.

There is also less of a chance autistic women will show signs of repetitive behaviour, said the NHS. Their website sums this up: “This means it can be harder to tell you’re autistic if you’re a woman.”

There are plenty of characteristics seen commonly in autism that are non-specific to either sex. Here are the NHS’s main signs of autism in adults:

  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • getting very anxious about social situations
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • finding it hard to say how you feel
  • taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg”
  • having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes

Other signs include:

  • not understanding social “rules”, such as not talking over people
  • avoiding eye contact
  • getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
  • noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not
  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • liking to plan things carefully before doing them

If you think you may be autistic, the NHS advise you should see your GP. If you already see a health professional, such as another doctor or therapist, you could speak to them instead. Getting diagnosed can help you get any extra support you might need. for more information click here.

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