These Are The Most Common Signs Of Autism In Women And Research Says You Probably Don't Realize Them

Research suggests that for every young girl diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), three boys receive the same diagnosis, according to a 2017 scientific review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Experts point out that these gender disparities in autism diagnoses are also observed in adulthood. "Adult women and those who are assigned female at birth will likely have a more difficult time finding an adequate autism evaluation," licensed psychologist Dr. Jessica Myszak, tells Insider. Rather, it's not that autism is necessarily more prevalent in men, but that signs of the disorder may manifest differently in women, leading to higher rates of misdiagnosis.

"Quite a large proportion of women are diagnosed later in life because they aren't presenting as you would expect autistic people to present," says neurodevelopmental specialist Hannah Hayward via Clinical Partners. Insider explains this is due to the fact that studies of autism symptoms have traditionally focused on men. Therefore, indicators of the disorder in women can often be missed. Additionally, experts state that women diagnosed with autism may be more effective at masking autism-related symptoms, such as by using the internet or television to emulate the facial expressions or movements of others (via Clinical Partners). While there is symptom overlap across all genders, experts highlight the subtle differences in how autism symptoms can present in women.

Subtle differences in autism symptoms amongst women

Among some of the most common signs of autism in women are exhaustion from socializing, sensory overload, difficulty regulating emotions, and a need for certainty, reports Insider. The Adult Autism Center of Lifetime Learning adds that females with autism may also exude resistance to touch, as well as difficulty making eye contact. They may also prefer to spend time alone, or maintain certain dietary preferences or aversions. Two of the more well-known symptoms of autism include repetitive physical movements and having focused interests, but these too can present differently in women. Repetitive behaviors such as rocking back and forth tend to be less frequent amongst women with autism and may instead manifest as hair twirling, feet rubbing, or skin picking, according to Psychology Today. Focused interests may tend to center around a celebrity or loved one, explains Clinical Partners.

Experts at Clinical Partners explain that misdiagnoses may put women with autism at risk for anxiety or depression. Women with autism may also be at a higher risk for abusive relationships. Therefore, it's important that adults with autism be able to access support services as needed. "The most important support we can offer autistic folks is to help them identify and understand their own specific needs, and then to work together to find ways to meet those needs," Sharon Kaye-O'Connor, an autistic psychotherapist and autism educator, tells Insider.