The 9 biggest signs of autism in adulthood (2023)

The 9 biggest signs of autism in adulthood (1)

Internally, many undiagnosed adults with autism say they feel different from those around them.

Maybe you've seen itVideoson social media where people describe the signs that made them realize they have autism. Viewers find them enlightening and comforting, as many people - especially women - go unrecognized in adulthood.

ThereforeDr. Megan Anna Neff, a clinical psychologist based in Oregon,a recent studyfound that 80% of females with autism are still undiagnosed by age 18.

There are many reasons for this: First, people learn to adapt their behavior to society. In addition, the autism diagnostic tools used today were designed exclusively for white boys of high socioeconomic status, he saidStephanie Gardner-Wright, a Licensed Master Social Worker and Board-Certified Clinical Autism Specialist in Michigan.

There is also a heavy focus on the external signs rather than the internal symptoms of autism, Gardner-Wright said. And these internal symptoms are very different from person to person.

"There are so many ways that autism can manifest itself and present itself," Neff added. "I think there is more diversity within autism than there is between autism and allism." (Allistic people are people who are not on the autism spectrum.)

That saidThere are a number of signs or thought patterns that undiagnosed autistic people can identify with.HuffPost spoke with mental health professionals, including some people who are neurodivergent themselves, about the signs of autism in adulthood:

(Video) 7 Signs of Autism in Men (DSM-5 Symptoms of Autism/Aspergers in High Functioning Autistic Adults)

The feeling of being "different" from others

All four experts shared that it is common for autistic people to feel different.Brandon Tessers, the director of Effective Artistry, a therapy group that supports neurodivergent people, said that some people would call it "Sometimes I feel like an alien", whileDr. Vanessa Bal, the director of the Psychological Services Clinic at the Center for Adult Autism Services at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said people describe it as "alifelong experience of feeling different.”

The difference between that feeling and the occasional feeling of being an outsider that everyone deals with from time to time is that with autistics this feeling doesn't come and go and doesn't just happen during a certain time like . he Bal told HuffPost.

Gardner-Wright added that this is an important indicator and an internal experience — you can't look at a person and know if they feel like an outsider. The feeling can be overwhelming or more subtle, it depends on the person, she said.

However, it is important to realize that people with autism do not necessarily feel like outsiders all the time, Bal stressed. They may find settings that are more inclusive of neurodivergent people. In addition, some adults also report that as they get older, they become more comfortable and worry less about differences and sometimes see them as strengths, Bal said.

Difficulty with social cues

Social cues are also another sign. According to Gardner-Wright, a person with undiagnosed autism may have difficulty realizing how much eye contact is appropriate or when to stop smiling during a conversation. They may be able to hide this insecurity by learning how much is appropriate, but it's not an innate feeling like someone who is allistic, she added.

A confusing relationship story – both romantic and platonic

According to Neff, many undiagnosed autistic adults have a confusing and complicated social relationship history. Additionally, romantic relationships can be difficult to navigate.

"There can be relationships that fall apart so suddenly, but the autistic person doesn't understand why," she said. When it comes to the cause of this complicated relationship history, it is likely that the person with autism does not know why their relationship is failing while others' are not.

sensory differences

Sensitivity to sensory input — like sound and sight — is another potential sign of autism, Gardner-Wright said, adding that it could mean paying excessive attention to a sound or not paying attention to it at all.

People who are not autistic tend to be more or less responsive to sensory stimuli, she said.

For example, an autistic person may find that they are constantly aware of the clock ticking at a friend's house or become hypersensitive to the sound of a loud siren, Gardner-Wright noted.

A desire for routine

Many people with autism thrive on consistency. "The world we live in is much more uncertain and unpredictablecapable. So we go into routine to calm ourselves down," Neff said.When a routine is interrupted, strong emotions can arise, including severe irritability or anxiety.

(Video) Spotting Autism in Adults - Common Signs and Traits of Autistic Adults

Gardner-Wright added that the routine doesn't have to be particularly strict either; it's a common misconception when people think about the daily routine of people with autism. Instead, it may be a strong preference for a particular cup each morning. Routine looks different for everyone.

In addition, big changes can also be difficult. "IfIf they move or change jobs, it can trigger a period of insomnia or anxiety," Neff said.

Routine can also extend to specific behaviors. This also includes repetitive body movements called stimulation, Neff added.Ifølge Research Institute of the Children's Hospital of PennsylvaniaStimulation behaviors can include body rocking, hand flapping, spinning, rubbing a particular surface, and squeaking.

A need for solitude

Another common sign? “Need solituderecharging after social situations or really overstimulated situations — and overstimulation can be different for everyone — but that's very characteristic of [autism]," Gardner-Wright said.This could mean that you feel completely exhausted after a work presentation or a family gathering.

Bal said this exhaustion originates from a term known as "camouflage" or "masking". "It's the idea that you really have to hide different facets of yourself or different behaviors to fit the expectations that are expected of you."

And although we all do it sometimes, people with autism may need to cover up certain aspects of themselvesSThey feel a sense of complete exhaustion and subsequently report spending long periods alone or in dark and quiet places to recover, Bal said.

Tessers added that outsiders have no idea when someone is masking. "THey, they do reasonably well what each of them wants or expects.""It can seem like you're acting like you're 'supposed' at work, but going home, falling and dreading the thought of having to do that camouflage again tomorrow, Tessers noted.

The 9 biggest signs of autism in adulthood (2)

(Video) What Does Adult Autism Look Like?

It is not uncommon for an adult with autism to need some time to themselves after days of social commitments.

more intense interests

A deep curiosity and passion for something specialActivity"Our brains tend to go into our area of ​​interest with a lot of passion, and we invest a lot in them, and it's also a way to calm ourselves down," Neff said.It could mean building a career around a particular interest or knowing everything about a particular hobby.

And while everyone has interests — and many people have strong interests — Neff said people with autism are likely to find a way to relate everything to their specific interests. For example, it might be finding a way to talk about a favorite TV show, even if the conversation is about current events.

"Allistic people can have a particular interest, but then that doesn't become their lens for the whole world," Neff said.

An aversion to small talk

Most people don't like small talk, but for people with autism, small talk can feel downright exhausting or something that shouldn't be happening.

"They usually don't enjoy small talk and may have found ways to avoid it," Neff said. "Maybe they've structured their lives or careers so they don't have to do a lot of allistic communication."

Gardner-Wright added that people on the spectrum tend to prefer deep, meaningful conversations.

The desire for direct communication

People with autism thrive on directness, with“Really honest, clear communication is a strong preference,” Gardner-Wright said.

Neff said people with autism tend to speak quite literally. For example, if you say the phrase, "The pouring rain," she said, autistic people may visualize cats and dogs literally falling out of the sky, but then realize that the person speaking means rain.

"Actually, I think it might be more accurate to say that our communication style is visual rather than literal, but it often turns out to be literal," Neff said.In addition, the communication style can be described as direct and honest. "WWhat we say, we tend to say at face value," Neff added.

If you think you have these signs, seek advice from autistic voices.

Both Gardner-Wright and Neff recommend exploring the hashtag#currentlyautisticUse social media to listen to lived experiences and hear from people in your specific community how this is working for them.

(Video) Aspergers Symptoms In Adults (9 YOU NEED To Know!)

"Finding out you have autism as an adult can be a real validation," Gardner-Wright said. It can help you understand yourself and your life better. "But there can also be a grieving process for that," she said, although as a child you wish you had that information so certain situations could have been different.

"Feeling a mixture of sadness and excitement is very, very normal," Gardner-Wright said.

other than thatUmarmung-Autismus.comis a helpful resource for free screening tools and tests to help you understand if you have autism — even though it's not a diagnosis, it's just online guides to arm you with information, Gardner-Wright noted.

You can also contact mental health professionals.

Neff said it can be helpful to connect with a therapist to talk about this new discovery, but stressed that it's important to find someone who is neurodivergent affirming or neurodivergent informed.

Bal agreed, saying, "We still have a long way to go in terms of educating medical and mental health professionals about autism." I'm concerned that there's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there."

Bal added that one can also search for nearby autism centers for diagnosis or treatment, but noted that many have years of waiting lists and may only focus on children. If they can't take you, Bal said, you can ask if they have the resources they recommend or search community autism organizations to see if they have resources.

Additionally, a community of supportive people can also be helpful, where the hashtag #actuallyaustic - or other online communities - are helpful.



The 9 biggest signs of autism in adulthood? ›

However, autism symptoms can show up later in higher-functioning individuals when they're under more demand or challenge, making an adult autism diagnosis possible. In addition, some adults who were not diagnosed in childhood may be later diagnosed in adulthood.

What are warning signs of autism? ›

Social Communication and Interaction Skills
  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact.
  • Does not respond to name by 9 months of age.
  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age.
  • Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age.

Can autism develop later in life? ›

However, autism symptoms can show up later in higher-functioning individuals when they're under more demand or challenge, making an adult autism diagnosis possible. In addition, some adults who were not diagnosed in childhood may be later diagnosed in adulthood.

How do they test for autism in adults? ›

The Social Communication Questionnaire, Autism Spectrum Quotient, Adaptive Behavior Questionnaire, Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS) are commonly used. The latter two are the most comprehensive measures available.

What can trigger autism? ›

Risk Factors
  • Having a sibling with ASD.
  • Having certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.
  • Experiencing complications at birth.
  • Being born to older parents.
Dec 9, 2022

Which parent carries autism gene? ›

Since autism is less prevalent in females, autism was always thought to be passed down from the mother. However, research suggests that autism genes are usually inherited from the father.

What does high functioning autism look like? ›

Symptoms. Like all people on the autism spectrum, people who are high functioning have a hard time with social interaction and communication. They don't naturally read social cues and might find it difficult to make friends. They can get so stressed by a social situation that they shut down.

Can someone be slightly autistic? ›

It is possible to be mildly autistic, but many of the behaviors and preferences found in people with autism are also common to people who do not have autism. The difference is that people with autism engage in these behaviors in different ways and for different reasons.

Can you have autism and not know it? ›

While autism is most often diagnosed in toddlers, it's possible for autistic adults to go undiagnosed.

Do adults know they are autistic? ›

Many people do not recognize the signs of autism until adulthood. And, even then, it's often mistaken for ADHD or another comorbidity.

What are symptoms of Aspergers in adults? ›

Adults with Asperger's: How they struggle, how they thrive
  • Hypersensitivities (to lights, sounds, tastes, etc.)
  • Difficulty with the give and take of conversation.
  • Difficulty with nonverbal conversation skills (distance, loudness, tone, etc.)
  • Uncoordinated movements or clumsiness.
  • Anxiety and depression.
May 12, 2021

Can someone have high functioning autism and not know it? ›

Absolutely. Many people with high functioning autism do not even realize they are on the spectrum until later in life, indicating that it is not only possible but quite common to live a “normal” life with high functioning autism.

What do autistic adults struggle with? ›

difficulties with high-level language skills such as verbal reasoning, problem solving, making inferences and predictions. problems with understanding another person's point of view. difficulties initiating social interactions and maintaining an interaction.

How do high functioning autistic adults act? ›

Difficulty Communicating and Awkward Communication

Signs that someone is finding it difficult to communicate include: – Difficulty reading social cues and participating in conversations. – Difficulty empathizing with other people's thoughts and feelings. – Struggling to read people's body language or facial expressions.

What do autistic adults enjoy doing? ›

Camping, reading a book, singing, playing tennis, dancing, and listening to music are just some of the recreational activities that adults with autism might enjoy with their loved ones.

What causes autism to get worse? ›

Common life experiences such as facing the death of a loved one, failed romantic relationships, employment problems, etc., can exacerbate autism symptoms in adults. In these cases, autism symptoms can get worse with age, but not necessarily due to the disorder neurologically worsening.

Who is prone to autism? ›

Boys are about four times more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder than girls are. Family history. Families who have one child with autism spectrum disorder have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder.

What deficiency causes autism? ›

Low vitamin D levels in utero, postnatal, and in early childhood have been hypothesized to be a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders, particularly ASD.

Does autism run in families? ›

Inheritance. ASD has a tendency to run in families, but the inheritance pattern is usually unknown. People with gene changes associated with ASD generally inherit an increased risk of developing the condition, rather than the condition itself.

Can someone with autism have a normal child? ›

The answer to the question of whether autistic people can have kids is a resounding yes. Autism does not affect one's ability to conceive or carry a child. However, there are some unique challenges that autistic individuals may face when it comes to parenting.

Does autism run in siblings? ›

Children who have an older sister with autism are more likely to also have the condition than are those who have an older brother on the spectrum. The risk is higher among younger brothers than younger sisters.

Do autistic adults cry a lot? ›

While some people with autism merely yell or stamp, many really do become overwhelmed by their own emotions. 3 Bolting, hitting, self-abuse, crying, and screaming are all possibilities. These can be particularly frightening—and even dangerous—when the autistic individual is physically large.

What are autistic hand gestures? ›

About stimming and autism

Stimming might include: hand and finger mannerisms – for example, finger-flicking and hand-flapping. unusual body movements – for example, rocking back and forth while sitting or standing. posturing – for example, holding hands or fingers out at an angle or arching the back while sitting.

What does an autistic meltdown look like in adults? ›

During a meltdown, we found that most autistics described feeling overwhelmed by information, senses, and social and emotional stress. They often felt extreme emotions, such as anger, sadness, and fear, and had trouble with thinking and memory during the meltdown.

Can autistic feel love? ›

In short, autistic people are more than capable of love and being in romantic relationships. Being in a relationship with an autistic person may just look a little different than what you're used to.

What happens if autism is not treated? ›

Untreated autism causes changes in brain function that make it more difficult for the person to control impulsive behavior or think rationally about their actions before they act on them. This can lead to situations where ASD adults are unable to live alone and take care of themselves without assistance.

Can you be autistic with good social skills? ›

Autistic folks may navigate the world and social interactions in a different way. That doesn't mean they don't have social skills. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) varies in how it may affect an individual.

What are the triggers for autism in adults? ›

Every autistic person is different, but sensory differences, changes in routine, anxiety, and communication difficulties are common triggers.

What medication is used for autism in adults? ›

Some newer antipsychotic medications may help with aggression, self-harm, and behavioral problems in both children and adults with autism. The FDA recently approved the use of risperidone (Risperdal) and apripiprazole (Abilify) to treat symptoms of autism.

Do autistic people have empathy? ›

Though autistic people may respond to emotions and social cues differently than neurotypical people, this does not mean they lack empathy. Just like neurotypical people, levels of empathy vary between autistic individuals.

Do autistic adults speak differently? ›

People with autism often speak with a different rhythm, prosody, and/or volume than typical peers. Thus, even if the words themselves are appropriate, they may sound flat, loud, soft, or otherwise different. It's not unusual for people with autism to "script" their conversations.

Are autistic adults quiet? ›

The popular image of a person with autism is a quiet, isolated individual who prefers solitude to social interaction. This is often true, but by no means always the case. While autistic people, by definition, have challenges with social communication, many enjoy social interaction, group activities, and friendships.

What happens to most autistic adults? ›

But emerging research suggests that autistic adults are at high risk of a broad array of physical and mental health conditions, including diabetes, depression and heart disease. They are also about 2.5 times as likely as their neurotypical peers to die early.

What can be mistaken as Aspergers? ›

Examples include:
  • Avoidant personality disorder.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Reactive attachment disorder.
  • Social (pragmatic) communication disorder.
  • Schizophrenia, which rarely happens in children.
Jan 18, 2022

What can be mistaken for Asperger's? ›

Conditions That Mimic Autism
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) The symptoms of OCD, such as compulsive hand washing, cleaning or touching items like doorknobs, can resemble the repetitive motions of autism. ...
  • Antisocial personality disorder. ...
  • Schizophrenia. ...
  • Learning disorders. ...
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

What is the meaning of Stimming? ›

" Stimming ," also known as self-stimulating behaviors or stereotypy, are repetitive body movements or repetitive movements of objects. Many individuals on the autism spectrum engage in routine stimming .

What is high-functioning autism called now? ›

As of 2013, Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism are no longer terms used by the American Psychological Association, and have instead both been merged into autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As of 2021, the World Health Organization also retired the terms and merged them into autism spectrum disorder.

What are the symptoms of autism but not autistic? ›

There are several conditions that resemble or have autism-like symptoms such as developmental delays, language disorders, motor impairments, attention-deficit, anxiety, brain injury, chromosomal abnormalities, and severe emotional and behavioral disturbance – just to name a few.

Why is love hard for autistic people? ›

Sensitivity to physical contact may also cause anxiety for those who have autism. The inability to read the thoughts, feelings or expressed sensations of one's partner can lead to miscommunication, painful experiences whether they are physical or emotional, and/or shame and guilt.

What is the hardest part of being autistic? ›

Due to the behavioural, information processing and sensory aspects of their diagnosis, many people on the autism spectrum often prefer familiar environments with a predictable routine. Restricted and repetitive interests, sensory processing differences and heightened anxiety can make even small changes stressful.

What are poor social skills in adults autism? ›

Impairment in social functioning is a central feature of ASD. Typical social skill deficits include: initiating interactions, responding to the initiations of others, maintaining eye contact, sharing enjoyment, reading the non-verbal cues of others, and taking another person's perspective.

What are the most autistic hobbies? ›

Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests, often from a fairly young age. These can change over time or be lifelong. It can be art, music, gardening, animals, postcodes or numbers. For many younger children it's Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs or particular cartoon characters.

Do autistic adults like to be alone? ›

Many autistic people enjoy spending time alone and consider it important for their wellbeing. Loneliness is different though. You might feel lonely if you don't have opportunities to socialise, or find this difficult. You might have friends/colleagues but feel misunderstood, or like you cannot be yourself around them.

What things are autistic people better at? ›

Autistic people may display a range of strengths and abilities that can be directly related to their diagnosis, including:
  • Learning to read at a very early age (known as hyperlexia).
  • Memorising and learning information quickly.
  • Thinking and learning in a visual way.
  • Logical thinking ability.

What are the 5 main symptoms of autism? ›

Signs of autism in children
  • not responding to their name.
  • avoiding eye contact.
  • not smiling when you smile at them.
  • getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound.
  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body.
  • not talking as much as other children.

What age does autism show? ›

The behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often appear early in development. Many children show symptoms of autism by 12 months to 18 months of age or earlier. Some early signs of autism include: Problems with eye contact.

How early can you detect autism? ›

ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months of age or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. Some people are not diagnosed until they are adolescents or adults.

Do autistic children smile? ›

Some children with autism smile to show they're happy but don't share their enjoyment. Others show little facial expression or have flat affect and rarely smile so you may not know when they're happy.

Can I be slightly autistic? ›

It is possible to be mildly autistic, but many of the behaviors and preferences found in people with autism are also common to people who do not have autism. The difference is that people with autism engage in these behaviors in different ways and for different reasons.

What are the facial features of autism adults? ›

Facial Features of Autism

These features may include a narrow forehead, a wide-spaced or flat nose bridge, and a small chin. Additionally, research has suggested that there may be more masculine physical features in individuals with autism, such as larger head circumference and narrower faces.

What is mild autism? ›

Mild autism is level 1 autism spectrum disorder. It means a person does not have severe symptoms and needs a lower level of support than someone else with autism. People with mild autism still have a hard time communicating and interacting with others.

What is one of the first noticeable symptoms of autism? ›

Early signs of autism include atypical social and communication behaviour, repetitive behaviour or movements, and intense interests. Early signs of autism usually appear in the first 1-2 years of life.

What can I do to prevent autism? ›

Can You Prevent Autism?
  1. Live healthy. Have regular check-ups, eat well-balanced meals, and exercise. ...
  2. Don't take drugs during pregnancy. Ask your doctor before you take any medication. ...
  3. Avoid alcohol. ...
  4. Seek treatment for existing health conditions. ...
  5. Get vaccinated.

What is a child with autistic traits but not autistic? ›

Some developmental health professionals refer to PDD-NOS as “subthreshold autism." In other words, it's the diagnosis they use for someone who has some but not all characteristics of autism or who has relatively mild symptoms.

Do autistic people cry? ›

While some people with autism merely yell or stamp, many really do become overwhelmed by their own emotions. 3 Bolting, hitting, self-abuse, crying, and screaming are all possibilities. These can be particularly frightening—and even dangerous—when the autistic individual is physically large.

Do people with autism like music? ›

Children with autism have also been shown to prefer musical learning compared to visual or auditory learning. Autistic children have a keen interest in music and remarkable musical abilities, which makes it easier for them to learn when music is made part of their learning.

Are autistic people capable of love? ›

In short, autistic people are more than capable of love and being in romantic relationships. Being in a relationship with an autistic person may just look a little different than what you're used to.


1. 10 Early Warning Signs of Autism
(Mary Barbera - Turn Autism Around)
2. Autism Diagnosis at 21 Years Old
(ABC News)
3. 10 Symptoms of High-Functioning Autism
(The Disorders Care)
4. Signs of Undiagnosed Autistic Adults
(The Doctors)
5. Autism in Females Maya’s Story
(Demystifying Medicine McMaster)
6. Autism Spectrum Disorder: 10 things you should know
(Telethon Kids Institute)


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