A diagnosis of autism makes a huge difference to someone, suddenly they have a way of defining the difficulties they have experienced throughout their life. The diagnosis of autism can help to explain to others the need for support and the form it should take.
Dr Dina Gazizova - MBBS, MRCPsych
Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental disorders, characterised by difficulties in;
Autism is a spectrum disorder and, as the name suggests, the symptoms and severity of symptoms can vary hugely between those diagnosed with Autism.
Autism can also be referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a common subtype of autism or ASD. The subtype – Asperger’s – was recently removed from the DSM-V (the diagnostic manual that Psychiatrists use in the USA) and now there is only one diagnosis you can be given ‘Autism’. The manual UK Psychiatrist’s use (ICD-10) still contains the term Asperger’s, but it is likely to change in the coming years.
Many autistic people will reach adulthood without ever having received an autism diagnosis – for many of us it wasn’t a common diagnosis or very well known when we were children.
Like many other developmental disorders, autism symptoms can change with age as the person matures, learns compensatory techniques or adopts lifestyle choices that make it easier to manage the impairments that autism can cause. However, some of the symptoms of autism may only become obvious with the social and functional demands of adulthood – for instance, needing to work in teams or when you start dating. When the symptoms of autism are not recognised until adulthood, they can sometimes be misdiagnosed as depression, ADHD or a psychotic illness.
A diagnosis for autism, no matter your age, can make a big difference to your quality of life. Not only will you gain understanding of the areas you struggle with, but it may help with work, relationships and ensure you receive the right support you need to thrive. Read more about the benefits of an autism assessment.
I wasn’t rushed in the consultation and was given all the time I needed to explain my symptoms. I was impressed with how thorough the assessment was and feel like it left no stone unturned. The Psychiatrist was very patient with me and I felt respected at all times.”
Autism affects all aspects of society, but it is thought approximately three times as many men as women receive an autism diagnosis.2
Until the early 1990s, the prevalence of autism and Asperger’s was uniformly low and in the region of 3–4 per 10,000. Since that time, the rate has been increasing, such that the most recent estimates are between 1 in 883 and 1 in 100 children. This increase in rate is probably due to:
Studies also show that an autism diagnosis is about three times more common for boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 48 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.
Diagnosing autism in women can be more challenging; it is thought that women are better able to mask some of the social interaction problems often experienced with autism, and hence ‘slip under the radar’ at school or later on in life.
Approximately half of all autistic people will also have other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or OCD, or a learning disability. Getting a diagnosis may seem scary, but it can really help people understand their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
2 Autism UK
3 Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (2008)