Unmasking Autism in Women: A History of Misdiagnoses and Misunderstandings
For years, autism has been considered a predominantly male condition. In fact, early studies and diagnostic criteria for autism focused almost exclusively on male subjects, leading to a long-standing misconception that autism is rare in women. This gender bias has had significant consequences for autistic women, who have been historically misdiagnosed or overlooked altogether. In recent years, however, a growing body of research has begun to reveal that autism presents differently in women, and that they may be just as likely to be on the spectrum as men. In this post, we will explore the history of autism diagnosis in women, the reasons behind the historical misdiagnoses, and the progress being made in understanding and supporting autistic women today.
The Early Days of Autism Research: A Focus on Men
Autism as a diagnosable condition first emerged in the 1940s, when researchers Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger independently described a group of children with social and communication difficulties. From the very beginning, autism research was marked by a gender bias, with the majority of the early case studies focusing on boys. As a result, the diagnostic criteria that were developed tended to be tailored to the male experience of autism, reinforcing the stereotype that autism was a male-specific condition.
Masking and Camouflaging: The Hidden Struggles of Autistic Women
As research on autism expanded, it became apparent that the condition did not exclusively affect males. However, the diagnostic criteria still tended to overlook females, as their symptoms often manifested differently. Autistic women are more likely to "mask" or "camouflage" their symptoms, a process in which they consciously or unconsciously mimic neurotypical behaviors to fit in with societal expectations. This can make it difficult for healthcare professionals to recognize the signs of autism in women, leading to misdiagnoses or missed diagnoses altogether.
In many cases, autistic women have been misdiagnosed with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, or even borderline personality disorder. This can have serious implications for their mental health and overall wellbeing, as the treatments for these conditions may not address the unique challenges faced by autistic individuals.
I was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at 24 years old. In this video, I talk about 10 autistic traits that affect me on a regular basis. I go over my sensory issues, including needing certain sheets to not eating certain foods. I also cover a TMI topic: gut issues! They're related to autism. Who knew?! I also talk about a very common autism trait: having a hard time with change. Although these traits are very common in girls and women, boys and men can have them, too! Traits are not exclusive to one gender. Also, please remember that not everyone will have these traits. Every autistic person is different, just like every neurotypical person is! And just because you have some of these traits does not make you autistic, and just because you DON'T have some of these traits doesn't make you NOT autistic. Only a doctor can officially diagnosis. Girls are so often misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed with autism until well into adulthood. Please help spread awareness to girls and women on the spectrum by sharing this video. My goal with this video is to help other people "figure themselves out," just like my adult autism diagnosis did. Getting young girls diagnosed could change their lives, and allow them to not deal with as many of the struggles I did growing up because I had no idea what was "wrong" with me. Instagram: @OliviaHops Small Business: www.UnbakedBar.com Female Autistic Traits - Female ASD Traits - Females with Autism - Autistic Females - Girls with Autism - Women with Autism - Autistic Girls - Autism Girls - Adult Autism
Breaking the Stereotype: Recent Developments in Autism Research
Fortunately, the landscape of autism research and diagnosis is beginning to change. In recent years, researchers have made a concerted effort to understand the unique experiences of autistic women, leading to the development of more inclusive diagnostic criteria. Studies have shown that autistic women are just as likely to be on the spectrum as men, debunking the long-standing myth that autism is a male-specific condition.
As our understanding of autism in women improves, it is essential that we continue to raise awareness and provide appropriate support for autistic women. This includes acknowledging the unique challenges they face, such as the pressure to camouflage their symptoms, the increased risk of mental health issues, and the higher likelihood of being misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
The history of autism diagnosis in women is a story of misdiagnoses and misunderstandings. However, recent research has begun to shed light on the unique experiences of autistic women, challenging the long-standing stereotype that autism is a predominantly male condition. As our understanding continues to grow, it is crucial that we work to raise awareness, refine diagnostic criteria, and provide appropriate support to ensure that autistic women receive the recognition and assistance they deserve.
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Give me numbers.
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This is gonna be a mess okay?
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Hey guys, my name is Olivia and welcome to my very first video of my YouTube series artistically me. I was very recently diagnosed. And I do mean very recently, literally three weeks ago with autism spectrum disorder or ASD, I wanted to create this YouTube channel to bring awareness to ASD and specifically females with ASD. Many, many females on the spectrum go undiagnosed, mis diagnosed or diagnosed later in life. And the latter two happens to me. And so I just kind of wanted to create some videos to bring awareness that many females, you know, are autistic too. And we're just kind of very good at masking our traits. So we go under the radar. For my first video, I thought I would do my top 10 autistic traits that affect me on a daily basis. So with autism is a spectrum hence the name. And not everybody has every trait and not everyone will have my traits and vice versa. Just like no two neurotypical people are alike. No two autistic people are alike. There's many misconceptions with autism. Usually, when somebody thinks about somebody being autistic, they don't think of me they think of somebody like Rain Man. And that's something that I also would like to change an analogy, the doctor who diagnosed in the US that I really liked was you wouldn't consider somebody not overweight until they hit 1000 pounds, they were 999 pounds, they're fine. They're only overweight, if they go over 1000 pounds. The same goes for autism. You can't say somebody is autistic just if they're at the level of Rain Man. So now jumping into my top 10 autistic traits. Number one, I have sensory issues. So basically, my senses are kind of heightened, I am considered a highly sensitive person, it's an actual thing, look it up. But so for example, when I go to the movies, I need to wear earplugs or else the movie is just too loud and I can't handle it. I usually need to wear sunglasses or also on like squinting and making all kinds of weird,
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terrible faces that
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probably embarrass my boyfriend because my eyes are so sensitive. Another example is my sense of smell. And my sense of smell is definitely the most debilitating of those sensory issues. For example, my family and I have been very blessed to be able to travel to Italy a lot throughout my whole life for my dad's business. And whenever we would go we would get a rental car, and one single cigarette or even just one person who had smoked a cigarette and still had cigarette smoke on their person sat in that car, I'd be able to smell it, no one else would. But I would be able to smell it and I would make my board parents walked all
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the way back
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to the car rental desk and ask for a new one and repeat this process until we found one that didn't smell of
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Another sensory issue I have is with my sense of touch. So certain fabrics I can't handle. I need to have soft, baggy, loose, thin fabrics. I'm always dressed in big baggy clothes and T shirts and sweat pants and slippers, I need to have socks on all the time. So you I usually look like a hobo a little bit. And I probably embarrass my war family when they have to go out in public with me. But I just can't handle tight restrictive, you know, not stretchy, itchy clothing. I take the tags off of all my shirts, stuff like that. Another thing that related and correlates to that is my sheets, I have to have jersey knit sheets on my bed. If you don't know what jersey net sheets are. They're basically like t shirt material. They're very stretchy, very soft. T shirt like sheets and I need to have those. Another thing with texture is the texture of certain foods. I'm a very very picky eater. Though I have gotten a lot better as I've gotten older, I'd like to say but I'm still pretty picky. But I've literally never eaten meat in my whole life. My mother likes to tell the story of when I was a baby and she would give me the baby food with chunks of vegetables and chunks of chicken in it and I would eat all the vegetables and then put the chunky chicken in my mouth and suck out all the flavor and then put the piece of chicken right back on my highchair and a nice little neat pile. Moving on to number two is the fact that I deal with a lot of lot of anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses. And this is actually very common in a four people on the spectrum to be misdiagnosed with these conditions. So I would have been not even so much that I was misdiagnosed because I very much do deal with anxiety and depression and PTSD, but it's under the umbrella of the ASD diagnosis. Number three is my inflexibility and inability to change. Now my boyfriend always likes to say, well, that is a problem. He likes to say that nobody likes change. And I suppose that is true, but my inability is taken to like, the highest level. And I very much need a routine and that routine is broken at can cause me to have a meltdown, for example, when I would show up to class in like elementary school, and my teacher had changed our seat assignments. And of the world complete meltdown. I could not handle the fact that I was going to change seats be sitting next to somebody new have a different, you know, angle of looking at the board, and they'd have to change me back. I feel like most kids thought like, Oh, this is cool, I get to sit in a new seat with a new friend. But to me, it was very uncool. Number four, I don't like to socialize, and I have a hard time socializing. I am very much a hermit, and an introvert I love to be alone. In fact, I need my alone time as if I need air. And I know that sounds dramatic, but it really is true. social situations exhausts me and I need time to re energize and recuperate from the social situations, I have a very hard time making eye contact in social situations, when somebody is speaking, I can actually make eye contact with them very well with no problems. But as soon as I start talking, I'm looking like literally anywhere but their eyes. No autism, by definition is partly that you struggle in social situations, and you struggle with facial expressions, social cues, body language. And when I was looking up the traits of ASD, and that was like one of the main traits, I thought, well, I can't have it because I can socialize just fine. Now obviously, like I said, autism is a spectrum. So not everybody's going to have every trait. So I thought, Oh, that's just not one of the traits I have the doctor who diagnosed me brought up that maybe I'm not as good as I think I am in social situations, because I said, I think everybody hates me all the time, all through school. I thought everybody hated me. Even now, when I go out, you know, with my boyfriend and some friends, I always asked my boyfriend afterwards. Do you think they had a good time? You know, did you think they just like had a terrible time? Are they ever gonna want to see us again. And he's always like, of course, they had a great time when you're talking about. And that's just kind of my autistic brain not being able to read their body language and facial expressions. Number five, is that I sometimes suffer from selective mutism. And what selective mutism is, is basically your physical inability to speak at some points in time. So for me, it's a very physical response. I can't speak for anybody else. But you know, I like will have the words in my throat and I can like, physically feel them, but I cannot push them out
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of my mouth. And this happens to me, when I'm in a meltdown, and somebody asks me what's wrong, I want to tell them what's wrong, but I physically cannot. So this is very frustrating for the person wanting to know what's wrong. Very frustrating for me. Number six, is that I'm a very black and white, a logical thinker. There is no gray areas, it is this or that. And I have a hard time understanding how somebody could think in the gray. And I'm very logical. So sometimes, I will misinterpret what somebody is trying to say, because I'm thinking of the logical explanation to it. Number seven is gut issues. Now, I apologize for bringing this up. It's gonna be a little personal. But this was actually one of the traits when I was looking up autistic traits that like really spoke to me and it was like, Whoa, moment, my entire life. I've had really severe constipation. I mean, I, again, I'm really sorry for bringing this up. But I can literally go two whole weeks without going number two. It's bad. And then I can have these excruciating stomach aches. And I remember when I was young, and I found out that you were supposed to poop every day, I was like,
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to prove like,
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once a week, there's a correlation between autism and gut issues. I just thought that was an crazy thing to find out because gut issues really affect me. So again, I apologize for bringing this up. Number eight is I have a superior long term memory and a pretty poor short term memory. So going back to my gut issues, I can literally very vividly remember my parents chasing me around the house and me like crawling to try and get away from them when I was literally less than two years old to try to put an enema in me because I couldn't go to the bathroom. I very vividly remember that. And I and that's just one example of the things that I remember very well from being young. With short term memory, not as good My poor boyfriend. Well, we get into arguments a little bit like you would to not tell me blah, blah.
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He's like, I told you blahdy, blah, two weeks ago, and I'm like,
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Well, I would literally like fight him and be like, absolutely not.
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I have a
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good memory. You did not tell me. I am right, you were wrong. But as it turns out, I'm actually wrong. So I had to apologize. And say that's, that's on me when I found out that, oh, I have a good long
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term memory. But
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short term memory is an entirely different thing. I will also never forget a face. If I see you even once I will remember but your name. Can't remember if somebody said you need to remember this person's name or I'm going to kill you won't be able to remember number nine is meltdowns. I have meltdowns pretty much like a toddler has a temper tantrum. As embarrassing as that is to admit, in our we'll get into these meltdowns from certain triggers. And a lot of times the triggers are seemingly miniscule things that another person wouldn't take a second glance at. And I remember when I found out that I was ASD, and meltdowns are a part of that. I was like, Oh my gosh, I'm not crazy. This is amazing. So it was very validating that I'm actually not a crazy person. There is a reason why I am the way I am. And last but not least number 10 is I struggle with empathy and feelings. In general, I have a very hard time showing empathy and being able to put myself in another person's shoes. I have a very hard time understanding at times, like why is this person upset? Why is this person sad? It doesn't make any sense to me. And I can come off as insensitive a lot of times I will want to show you know like if somebody passes away or something I want to be able to show you know how sorry I am and I'm upset and sad too, but I cannot do it. Well that is it. That is my top 10 autistic traits that affect me on a daily basis. I really hope you enjoyed this first video of my artistically me series. Please leave me comments, questions or concerns below. I would love to hear from you guys and see if you like this style of video and what I talked about. So again, thank you so very much for watching. I hope you learned something today and have a wonderful day. I will see you soon.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai