Autism Spectrum Disorder is observed differently in women compared to men. Although there is a lack of scientific research in this area, it is known that this is the case in practice. That’s why it’s important to know what these differences are. You can understand better when there is a woman with autism around you. Although it is a complex subject, it is useful to know.
Although men and women seem to be equal in many aspects of life, unfortunately, the situation is not the same when it comes to body and health. It can even cause great grievances if it is seen as equal. For this reason, male and female bodies should not be considered equal in terms of health. Autism is exactly one of these disorders. It would be misleading to think that men and women should be observed equally.
Autism Symptoms in Women
Every woman with autism is unique, as is every individual with autism. Despite their uniqueness, they may have shared experiences. According to the autism spectrum, we can list the symptoms that women with autism have as follows;
- Their interests are different from those of their peers.
- They prefer to be alone. Or they prefer to have only one or two friends.
- They like to have their interests appreciated. Therefore, it is beneficial for the people around them to focus on these areas of interest.
- Trending things are unimportant to them. They don’t show as much interest in things that are popular or trendy as women who normally complete their development.
- Being feminine is not so important to them.
- They are extremely sensitive to tissues and fabrics.
- For them, comfort and practicality are more important than being beautiful.
- They have difficulty adapting to trends and social norms.
- They try very hard to avoid society and camouflage themselves. That’s why they become adept at imitation. Or they try to stay out of social life by escaping to nature.
- It is obvious that they are different when they are in different environments.
- They release their emotions that they had to hide in public at home.
- They become anxious because they try to imitate or hide their feelings in social situations. This state of anxiety can also lead to mutism, having rituals, or having strict routines.
Comorbidities are diagnoses that are normally made in addition to autism when the primary diagnosis is an autism spectrum disorder. However, in women with autism, the situation may be quite the opposite. It is more common for them to be diagnosed with autism in addition to other diagnoses they have received. According to recent studies, the comorbidity observed in women with autism is higher than in men with autism. In addition, late diagnosis also increases the possibility of comorbidity. We can list some of the comorbidities seen among women with autism as follows;
- Mood disorders (Depression and anxiety)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Eating disorders (Anorexia nervosa)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (It appears as one of the main symptoms of autism.)
- Tic disorders
- Sleeping disorders
- Personality disorders (Borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, and schizoid personality disorder)
Why Is It Harder to Diagnose Females With Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Diagnosing autism is based on observation and its correct definition. However, the lack of a reliable test to test for autism and the general acceptance of autism symptoms as behavioral disorders make it difficult to diagnose autism in women. The creation of existing tests based on pre-existing concepts also causes this misconception. Because of the fact that it is prepared on the basis of the male population.
The fact that autism in women has a different course than autism in men causes women to be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. Autism in women does not fully meet the current diagnostic criteria. This shows that the diagnostic criteria are lacking in terms of both gender and age.
Camouflaging, imitating or masking are methods frequently used by women with autism. They use it to adapt to social life. That’s why they often come up when discussing the issue of female autism. While women with autism camouflage their strange behavior in order to adapt to the society they live in, this causes autism symptoms to be misdiagnosed. As an attitude they develop against social pressure, they can hide their socio-communicative disorders or mask them to some extent. Especially women at the high-functioning end of autism are quite successful in this regard. Although they cannot make sense of social communication, they are strong in imitation at this point.
They develop certain forms of camouflage. They force themselves to make eye contact during communication. Before getting involved in a social environment, they can practice their speech at home or prepare some jokes to adapt to the environment. They imitate the speech or social behavior of people around them. They rehearse at home or imitate people in the environment to use gestures and facial expressions appropriate to the situation.
How Common Is Autism in Females?
The numbers are quite variable in terms of autism in women. Misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis of autism in women is the main cause of this circumstance. The existing data are based on estimations, not on a scientific basis. These estimates are that every 3 men for every 1 woman are diagnosed with autism.
There may be several different reasons for these estimates. The only generally accepted judgment is that autism is not equally common in men and women. Current diagnostic criteria are quite inadequate to observe autism in women. Understanding both the symptoms of autism and how it develops is not easy, even for experts, because there are no specific criteria to understand. This also explains the reason for the large difference in prevalence rates.
Observing and understanding autism late in women creates greater disadvantages for them in the long run compared to men. Because both intervention and education start late. Psychological disorders are also more common in women who cannot make sense of their situation and uniqueness.
It has emerged as a result of research that autism in women is not less common today, but that it is not adequately diagnosed. There are certain reasons for this result. We can list them as followed;
- Women may be more anxious about autism than men, and when they internalize it, they tend to be calmer or even more introverted and anti-social rather than aggressive.
- In many societies, the shyness of women is not associated with autism as it is culturally accepted.
- It is also socially acceptable when women with autism have an extra interest in a particular object or situation. Because women’s interest in objects and events that are attractive is culturally normal.
- It is also a big and important reason why women with autism are less involved in research and studies.
What Causes Autism in Women?
While the exact cause of autism is still unknown, the same is true for women. It is a wide symptom and varies in severity. Considering these, we can say that it is affected by various factors. These can be both genetic and environmental factors. Currently, there is no conclusive evidence for the difference in autism between the sexes, but professionals state that men are more likely to develop autism. Experts believe that women are genetically born with autism protective factors.
It is claimed that the main reason why autism is generally associated with men is mostly due to the difference between the male brain and the female brain. While empathy and socialization are associated with the female brain, the subjects associated with the male brain are more objective and categorical.
On the other hand, since no theory has been developed yet on the effect of hormones on brain development, some limitations have been introduced in this regard. Nevertheless, it can be considered as a starting point for understanding how autism develops.
Women With Asperger’s Syndrome
We can say that the diagnosis of women with Asperger’s syndrome is almost the same as the diagnosis of women with autism. The probability of being misdiagnosed is equally high. In addition to this, many professionals working in the field of autism also recognize Asperger’s syndrome as more difficult in women because they are more experts in autism in men.
Many doctors and professionals working with autism are trying to improve themselves in this regard. Although this way has been shortened by developing technology, increasing resources, and information redundancy, there is still a long way to go.
As with autism, the main features of the Asperger profile do not differ between the sexes. It is just that women may react differently to this situation. Since they show different external reactions, their diagnosis becomes difficult or delayed. Although every individual and every woman with an Asperger’s profile is unique, it is inevitable that they will share more or less the same experiences.
Famous Women With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Dr. Temple Grandin
It can be said that it is the most famous name that comes to mind when a woman with autism is mentioned in the world. She gave never before shared information about how an autistic mind works. She has had great success in the livestock processing industry. Thanks to her publications, she has caused the rest of the world to develop an understanding of individuals with autism and their perception of the world. In this way, individuals with autism have begun to be understood a little bit better. Many movies have been made about her, and she has given a TedX speech, trying to break down the common stereotypes of autism.
She was the star of the movie Kill Bill. Camouflage, which is most common in women with autism, has become her lifestyle. She states that because of the fact that she is actually incredibly shy, she camouflages or imitates. The actress, who, in addition to her shyness, was terrified of big events, said that these symptoms did not allow her to stop her work as an environmental activist.
She is a Scottish singer known for her voice competition. The Got Talent contest has been instrumental in recognition of her. She has proven to the whole world that individuals with autism can also engage in such activities.
She is the author of Period Power. She talked about her diagnosis of autism in an article she shared on her social media account recently. She stated that she was diagnosed with autism out of her own curiosity. While she was researching and reading about autism, she thought that she might have this disorder herself. And thanks to this, she decided to see a specialist and was diagnosed with autism. She said that it added great meaning to her life and gave meaning to her previous life.
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