In The Politics of Autism, I discuss gender differences in autism identification.
Alokananda Rudra at The Conversation:
But while autism and ADHD still affect a greater number of men, more women are reporting being diagnosed with these conditions as adults. Again, this increase is probably due to any number of factors. But social media may also be playing a role, with women able to use platforms such as Twitter and TikTok to spark discussions and share their experiences and stories.
One constant in the experiences that many women have shared on social media is how long they waited for a diagnosis. Many have even spoken about how they were even brushed off by healthcare professionals when seeking a diagnosis, told pointblank that they’re “not autistic” or that their problem is “anxiety and not ADHD”. For many, not knowing why they felt different from others left them feeling confused and even depressed.
This isn’t surprising, as autism and ADHD are both often missed or even misdiagnosed in women. Nearly 80% of women with autism are misdiagnosed – often with conditions such as borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and anxiety. It’s currently unknown how often women with ADHD are misdiagnosed.But there are a number of reasons that may explain why this happens. The first is that autism and ADHD symptoms are different in women than they are in men. Other conditions common in people with autism and ADHD (such as anxiety and depression) may also make it appear that symptoms are the result of these conditions instead. Women with autism and ADHD may also learn over time how to hide their symptoms from people – which may further lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
Another major problem is that autism and ADHD are still often seen as “male disorders”. While it’s true that both conditions affect a higher proportion of men than women, it also means that the current tools used to diagnose people with these conditions tend not to recognise female symptoms as readily.