Claire Jack at Psychology Today:
[B]ecause autistic adolescents and adults may also experience other psychiatric issues, such as mood disorders, suicidality, and anxiety, they often come into contact with healthcare professionals because of those symptoms, as opposed to because of autism itself.3 Mental health professionals may therefore mistake autistic characteristics for those of other psychiatric disorders.4
There are also gender differences in terms of which misdiagnoses people are likely to receive. One small study found that out of 10 women who were misdiagnosed, the most common misdiagnosis was a personality disorder (one person was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and one with psychotic spectrum disorder). In contrast, the majority of a group of seven men were diagnosed with ADHD, while two received a diagnosis of psychotic spectrum disorders and one received a diagnosis of behavioural issues.5 This and other research strongly suggest that not only is misdiagnosis a possibility but that diagnosis may be influenced by the biases and past experience of psychiatrists.
1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001kgzr Women's Hour, BBC Radio 4, 29th March 2023
2. Huang Y., Arnold S. R., Foley K. R., Trollor J. N. (2020). Diagnosis of autism in adulthood: a scoping review. Autism 24, 1311–1327. doi: 10.1177/1362361320903128, PMID: [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
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4. Au-Yeung S. K., Bradley L., Robertson A. E., Shaw R., Baron-Cohen S., Cassidy S. (2019). Experience of mental health diagnosis and perceived misdiagnoses in autistic, possibly autistic and non-autistic adults. Autism 23, 1508–1518. doi: 10.1177/1362361318818167, PMID: [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
5. Gesi C, Migliarese G, Torriero S, Capellazzi M, Omboni AC, Cerveri G, Mencacci C. Gender Differences in Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis among Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder with No Language or Intellectual Disability. Brain Sci. 2021 Jul 9;11(7):912. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11070912. PMID: 34356146; PMCID: PMC8306851.