What Are the Main Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability in which the brain functions differently. A person with ASD is likely to have trouble with social communication and interactions. They might also exhibit repetitive behaviors or restricted interests.
ASD usually starts to become apparent before the age of three. However, sometimes symptoms can go unnoticed and undiagnosed. In recent years the awareness and understanding of the needs of adults with ASD have seen a dramatic increase. This may be due to the rise in focus on beneficial treatment and support of adults with ASD.
The awareness of issues surrounding ASD in adults is increasingly in the public focus. It is becoming more apparent that a proper diagnosis and treatment can offer significant benefits to the quality of life of an adult with ASD.
Signs and Symptoms of ASD in Adults
Many signs of ASD present themselves slightly differently in adults than in children. These signs can be pronounced or subtle, depending on each unique individual.
Some important social behaviors in an adult that may indicate ASD include:
- The inability to understand what others are thinking or feeling
- Having a difficult time establishing and maintaining relationships or friendships
- Experiencing extreme anxiety and agitation when having to participate in social activities
- May come across as rude without meaning to while speaking with others
- Having a hard time understanding other people’s personal boundaries
- Showing preference for spending time alone, often fixating on a particular hobby or interest.
The Risk of Misdiagnosis in Adults With ASD
Many of the screenings and tests for ASD are designed to diagnose young children. If a person is not diagnosed when they are young, it can be challenging to get an accurate diagnosis as an adult.
Adults with ASD may also have co-occurring mental health challenges, making an ASD diagnosis even more difficult. A person with ASD symptoms may be misdiagnosed with another psychiatric disorder or receive a partial diagnosis that does not include ASD. It is estimated that more than 70% of people with ASD have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder.
An anxiety disorder is a common misdiagnosis or partial diagnosis for adults with ASD. Individuals on the autism spectrum often experience high levels of anxiety in social situations. These anxieties often spill over into various other parts of their lives.
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is also prevalent in adults with ASD, which can lead to a diagnosis of one without the other. It is estimated that 30-50% of people with ASD also have symptoms of ADHD.
Borderline Personality Disorder
A person with ASD might also be misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD is a psychiatric disorder with the following symptoms:
- Unpredictable mood and emotional states
- Impulsive behavior
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
The symptoms of ASD can look similar to those of BPD and be diagnosed incorrectly.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms can also be confused with symptoms of ASD. Repetitive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and high anxiety can be symptoms of OCD. ASD can mimic these behaviors in the form of self-stimulating behaviors (stimming), the tendency to be hyperfocused on one area of interest, and ASD-related anxiety.
Diagnosis After Autistic Burnout
Autistic burnout occurs when an adult with ASD becomes overwhelmed by daily tasks. An adult experiencing autism burnout may have characteristics and traits that become much more pronounced. They may feel unable to cope with stressors. Managing the life skills, they need to function in their daily lives or interact with others may seem impossible.
While autistic burnout can happen at any time, it seems to be triggered by extra stress in an individual’s life and significant life transitions. The effects of autistic burnout can be extreme, affecting a person’s health and quality of life. Sometimes it can even lead to the loss of an independent lifestyle.
Emotional and mental exhaustion leading to autistic burnout can severely impact the quality of life of adults with undiagnosed ASD. As devastating as the impact can be, it can often lead to a diagnosis of autism in previously undiagnosed adults. With a proper diagnosis, individuals can receive appropriate treatment and support to help them navigate the challenges of life more easily.
Where Can I Find More Information and Support?
Finding the correct diagnosis for you is critical to getting the proper support and treatment. At Alter Wellness Care, we have a compassionate behavioral health team that specializes in providing support to adults with ASD.
Understanding that there are distinct advantages to the way an ASD mind works is one of our firm beliefs. We adhere to the philosophy that the way an autistic brain operates is different, not disordered.
Alter Wellness Care aims to help adults with ASD understand how to cope with living in a world that isn’t designed for them. We want to provide the support you need to help you live better and achieve all your goals.
If you have questions or concerns about the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can be challenging to figure out where to turn for support. Alter Wellness Care can help. When supporting our clients diagnosed with ASD, we focus on figuring out coping mechanisms and self-management techniques personalized for you. We also emphasize the importance of psychoeducation and community. By using specialized digital apps and directing people toward autism-inclusive social spaces, we aim to give people with autism an entirely improved quality of life. We are committed to helping individuals regain their confidence and learn techniques to achieve lifelong success. We offer a wide variety of evidence-based treatments and strive for a holistic treatment plan for each unique client we serve. Call Alter Wellness Care today at (866) 311-3510 to find out more about our specialized, autism-informed care.
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