In today’s world, there is no scientific test in order to diagnose autism spectrum disorder for any gender. Since it is more difficult to understand symptoms of autism in women, it is even more challenging for women to get diagnosed. It can be a very challenging process that even requires visiting overseas professionals.
“You don’t look autistic” is the very common expression that women on the autism spectrum get when they tell people around them that they are on the spectrum. Actually, they do. However, the problem is medical diagnostic criteria have been created based on men’s symptoms and looks. It can be said that the main problem is that experts do not know what to look for in diagnosing autism in women.
The difficulties experienced in diagnosing women with autism are always an indication of the development of an accurate autism test and better diagnostic criteria. The new diagnoses and criteria to be created should be jointly created by experts who often find the opportunity to work on this issue and women with autism.
According to the last DSM book created in 2013 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5), there are very restrictive requirements for the diagnosis of autism. Although these requirements are not suitable for today’s conditions, they were created in accordance with the white male autism experience. This situation causes women not to be diagnosed with autism or to be misdiagnosed because they do not meet the DSM criteria when they go to a specialist.
Developing more accurate diagnostic criteria and testing is a very important issue to improve the quality of life of many women on the autism spectrum who are trying to understand their differences in silence. Women with autism are undoubtedly quite different from men with autism or women who have completed their normal development. They differ from men with autism because they are adept at masking their autistic symptoms. They differ from women who complete their development normally because they are on the spectrum.
Since existing autism tests are based on narrow and gender-based diagnostic criteria, it also causes autism to be diagnosed as a menstrual-related mood disorder in women. Women with autism trying to adapt to the outside world can go so far as to be mislabeled as being hysteric.
An Unofficial CheckList for Women on The Autism Spectrum
There is a list you can find on the internet that includes many aspects of autism on the spectrum in order to understand whether you are on the autism spectrum or not as a woman.
Section A: Deep Thinkers
- Compared to normally developed people, they are overthinkers and deep thinkers.
- They are very productive.
- They are quite smart and intelligent.
- They can think of things from many different angles and levels.
- They constantly think and analyze everything around them, their existence, the meaning of life, etc.
- They take the reality of nature very seriously.
- They don’t even take things lightly that we consider unimportant.
- They cannot simplify things.
- For them, everything is chaotic and must be analyzed.
- They are often lost in their own thoughts and do not seem to listen to you.
Section B: Innocent
- They can be very naïve.
- They can be unacceptably outspoken.
- They are not good at lying.
- They cannot understand manipulation and they cannot manipulate people.
- They can be easily fooled by people.
- They may not understand vengeful behavior, infidelity, and retaliation.
- They may have a hard time dealing with feelings of being overwhelmed because of emotions they cannot understand.
- They may think that they do not belong on this planet and that they are quite different from the people around them.
Section C: Escape and Friendship
- In order to avoid feelings and sensations that they cannot cope with, they also avoid thoughts and actions that will cause them.
- They try to avoid obsessions and excessive attention.
- They use their imaginations and fantasies as a way of avoiding their routine life.
- They specifically avoid using rhythmic words.
- Even in normal conversations, they talk very philosophically.
- They may have imaginary friends in childhood and adolescence.
- They imitate people they see on television or in real life. This can be about anything you can think of, clothing, interests, manner of speaking, etc.
- In their youth, they may see their friends as pawns and their life as a game.
- They tend to spend time with older people rather than being friends with their peers.
- They obsessively collect, arrange, and organize objects.
- They can listen to the same song over and over without getting bored.
- Using numbers makes their life easier. That’s why they try to use numbers in every aspect of their lives.
- They do not attend parties, and if they do, they tend to flee to areas where no one is present.
- They don’t have a second that they don’t think about. They are not comfortable when they are not actively thinking about a topic.
- For them, everything in life, everything people do and everything they do has a meaning.
Section D: Comorbid Attributes
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Sensory problems (sight, sound, texture, smells, taste)
- Having anxiety
- Experiencing extreme emotions for very short periods of time (depressed/overjoyed; thoughtless/oversensitive)
- Poor muscle tone
- Lack of coordination
- Eating disorders (food obsessions, anxiety about what to eat, anorexia)
- Intestinal and digestive problems
- Chronic fatigue
- Experiencing immune problems
- Being undiagnosed with mental illness
- Questioning their own existence as you get older
- Searching for right and wrong in life
- Experiencing bouts of depression in adolescence
Section E: Social Interaction
- They have trouble making friends or they suddenly end existing friendships.
- They tend to overshare.
- They tend to spill their private details, even to people they don’t know, without a personal and private concept.
- They tend to attend school too much or not at all.
- Often their conversation turns into a monologue.
- In conversations, they always bring the subject to themselves and their own interests. And as a result, they always talk to themselves.
- Although they are not narcissistic in personality, they are perceived as narcissistic and controlling due to their behavior.
- They are often overly enthusiastic or overly indifferent.
- Multiple thoughts and ideas run through their minds at the same time.
- They believe they are communicating correctly, but they are actually not very socially acceptable.
- They become obsessed with their potential to form a relationship with someone.
- They are confused about the correct tone of voice, facial expressions, posture, and eye contact in their speech.
- Having a dialogue is very tiring for them.
- They constantly question not only their own behavior but also the behavior of others.
- By observing the people around them, they become adept at imitating them and can more easily cope with the difficulties they may face in daily life.
- They also learn how to behave around other people through imitation.
- They rehearse their behaviors before entering a new environment.
- They have dozens of different scenarios in their minds about what to say in a social environment, and they have behaviors suitable for each scenario.
- They cannot talk to people when they are in noisy environments. They cannot filter out background noise.
- Their sense of humor is often viewed as odd and inappropriate.
- Their speech is accepted by others to be confusing and tiring.
- They regard unwritten words as difficult to grasp, remember, understand, and follow.
Section F: Finds Refuge when Alone
- When they don’t have to do the things normal people should do, they both feel extremely relieved and feel guilty about it.
- They may be disturbed by any visitor to their home, even this family member. Knowing the person who will come to the house does not cause them to perceive it as a threat, but it does not relieve the anxiety they have.
- If they have upcoming events and appointments on their calendar that they don’t want to be a part of, it makes them nervous and scared.
- Knowing that they will leave the house during the day causes them anxious from the moment they wake up, even the night before.
- All the steps that we can call going out of the house or getting out of the environment they are used to are tiring for them, even thinking about it is like torture for them.
- If they have to attend a planned event, they begin to mentally prepare themselves days, weeks, or even months in advance.
- They have an obsession with time and keeping track of time. This also applies to money matters. They are constantly thinking and questioning the next step.
- They are always obsessed with taking the right step, as they often feel like they are being watched.
- They rehearse a lot and try hard to say the right words, but even that doesn’t ease their anxiety.
- Spending the whole day at home is a great source of peace for them. They enjoy spending time alone.
- They are very uncomfortable in public. Changing rooms, in particular, are places that they do not like to be at all. In addition, they do not like to be in crowded environments.
Section G: Sensitive
- While trying to sleep, they are more sensitive to the sound, texture, temperature, and smells around them than other people.
- They may change too many bedspreads for comfort.
- Their dreams can be very vivid, complex, and anxiety-laden due to their different brain patterns.
- They are very intuitive to the emotions of the people around them.
- They are quite devoid of empathy abilities.
- They want to be seen, heard, interested, and understood.
- They often question whether they adapt to social norms.
- They set limits on themselves in many areas on a daily basis.
- It hurts them when others question them while they think they have the right to criticize everyone.
- They accept many events around them as an extension of their selves.
- They are very sensitive to harmful substances. These could be toxins, alcohol, hormones, or even drugs.
- They may offer unsolicited advice while trying to help others.
Section H: Sense of Self
- They feel stuck between adapting to society and wanting to be themselves.
- Imitation and camouflage begin to happen spontaneously.
- In general, they suppress and hide what they really want.
- They tend to exhibit addictive behaviors.
- They adapt themselves to society because they don’t want others to make fun of them.
- They reject social norms and existing rules.
- They try very hard to feel good about themselves.
- Because they are obsessed with adapting, they change their preferences and desires according to their environment and people. The same is true for their behavior.
- They may have problems recognizing or remembering faces.
Section I: Confusion
- They think that the people around them are always just as honest as they are. They may have difficulty learning that this is not the case.
- Understanding emotions is quite confusing for them. They accept both their own emotions and those of others as unpredictable.
- They think that they can always achieve the same result by making certain moves. But when they realize that this is not the case, they experience greater disappointments.
- They always speak with the first meaning of words in the dictionary.
- Their jokes are incomprehensible or confusing.
- They become very confused when they receive negative emotions from others.
- They have trouble identifying emotions.
- They have trouble with negative emotions. They cannot understand the feeling of hatred.
- When their feelings are at extreme levels, they cannot make sense of their feelings or they have great difficulties explaining them to others.
- For them, everything is black or white, they have difficulty understanding situations and emotions outside of it.
- They may not even understand or misunderstand events and feelings with obvious consequences.
- A small discussion can mean the end of the world for them, but with a small compliment, they can become the happiest person in the world.
Section J: Words, Numbers, and Patterns
- They want to know the origin, basis, and history of words.
- They use words in their original meaning. If it has more than one meaning, they get confused.
- Since their visual memory is stronger, they remember the pictures they see in detail.
- They remember everything they hear and see, down to every detail.
- They write to reduce or relieve their anxiety.
- They can associate words and numbers with emotions.
- Words and numbers bring them peace like friendship.
Section I: Executive Functioning & Motor Skills
- Even the simplest tasks can cause enormous difficulties for them.
- Driving or walking around the corner can be equally challenging for them.
- They don’t like to explore new places.
- Any task that requires new learning and a certain amount of manual dexterity can cause them anxiety.
- They avoid daily and routine house works.
- They may be overly sensitive or careless about their own cleanliness or the cleanliness of the environment they are in.
- If they have to do a task, many questions come to mind as they prepare for that task, and many of them can be very pointless.
- They don’t mind going out in clothes that look mismatched.
- No matter how advanced their imitation skills are, they have trouble copying movements such as dance, sports, or aerobics.
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