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Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms of Autism in Adulthood

Signs of Autism in Adults

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that is characterized by persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors. It is known to occur in all ages and socioeconomic groups. In this article, we will take a look at signs of autism in adults and how it is managed.

Autism in Adults

Adults with autism who are high functioning may have only mild challenges that interfere with their everyday life. The symptoms of ASD vary from person-to-person and can sometimes be different in women and men.

For example, an autistic woman may be quieter, hide their feelings, and appear to cope better with social situations— this makes it more difficult to know if a woman is autistic.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism in Adults

The signs and symptoms of ASD vary in their severity, thus the condition is often referred to as a spectrum.

Sometimes symptoms of ASD make life difficult for people living with the disorder. In the case of those considered “high-functioning,” they would always feel that there is something different about them and may feel that way starting in childhood. On the other hand, they may not even notice that they feel or behave differently, but others around them may notice that they behave or act differently.

The symptoms of ASD are particularly seen in areas of communication and emotional/behavioral comportment. The following signs indicate if an adult is autistic:

Communication challenges:

  • Difficulty reading social cues
  • Difficulty having a conversation
  • Difficulty keeping eye contact during a conversation
  • Often talking a lot about only one or two favorite topics
  • Inability to properly express oneself and feelings
  • Difficulty understanding figures of speech or similar phrases
  • Difficulty relating to people’s thoughts or feelings
  • Difficulty in building or keeping close friendships
  • Inability to properly read body language and facial expressions

Emotional and behavioral attributes:

  • Displaying repetitive behaviors and rituals
  • Trouble regulating emotions and responses to them
  • Difficulty adapting to changes in routines and expectations
  • Making unusual noises in places where quiet is expected
  • Difficulty in handling unexpected events
  • Anxiety about social situations
  • Getting upset when personal things are moved or rearranged
  • Having stereotypic routines and schedules that must be maintained
  • Getting upset when space/privacy is intruded
  • Exhibiting strong and special interests in certain subjects or activities
  • Ability to notice small details, patterns, smells or sounds hardly observed by others

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How to Get a Diagnosis

Autism spectrum disorder is typically a life-long condition, though early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference. Since the diagnostic criteria for adults with suspected ASD is currently in development, doctors usually diagnose adults with ASD through a series of in-person observations and interactions.

You can talk to your doctor if you are interested in being evaluated for ASD. Your doctor will assess you by discussing any issues you have regarding communication, emotions, behavioral patterns, range of interests, and more. You may have to answer questions about your childhood, and there might also be a need to speak with your parents or other family members to gain their perspectives about your lifelong behavior patterns.

Your doctor may also recommend that you be tested for possible mental illnesses if it is discovered that your ASD symptoms started only in your teens or as an adult.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Being diagnosed with ASD as an adult will help you understand yourself better and improve how you relate to people. It can also help you understand your weaknesses and handle challenges better. In addition, it can also help those around you to understand and empathize more with your unique characteristics. You can discuss this with your doctor and family to seek treatments that may be right for you.

Adults do not usually receive the same treatment as children with ASD. Treatment may be administered based on the particular challenges you are experiencing.

In most cases, adults with ASD may be subjected to cognitive, verbal, and applied behavioral therapy. You could also be referred to a psychiatrist for further medical evaluation or you may be asked to take prescription medication for symptoms like anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues that may occur alongside ASD.

In the case of career-related difficulties, some people are advised to get vocational rehabilitation. Many adults with autism have found support through helpful online platforms, as well as by connecting in person with other adults on the autism spectrum.

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