It’s estimated that roughly 2% of people in the United States are autistic.
Long-held stereotypes of autistic individuals portray them as highly intelligent with developed special interests, low social skills, and visible stimming (performing repetitive motions like flapping their hands or rocking back and forth). And almost always that stereotype brings to mind the image of a male.
While it is true that men are diagnosed with autism far more frequently than women — at a rough ratio of four to one — there is emerging evidence that women have been underdiagnosed for a long time. Researchers believe that this is due to the criteria commonly used for diagnosis, which have been based almost entirely on male autistic behavior.
Multiple studies indicate that autistic women often present differently – they have, in many cases, related but different symptoms, and behaviorally differ from autistic men. Autism manifests differently for each woman, but common symptoms are sensory issues, feeling like they are different from other women, feeling the need to mimic others to fit in, emotional regulation issues, and often anxiety and depression.
Research is finding that women are able to “camouflage” or “mask” better than men. They can effectively hide their symptoms by observing and imitating the people around them. More than one study suggests this is due to social pressure on women to fit in and other gendered expectations that are not usually placed on men.
The good news is that these differences are coming to light and being actively studied, making it easier for women to receive a correct diagnosis. If these symptoms sound familiar to you, see HERE and HERE for more information, and talk to your doctor if you are interested in pursuing a diagnosis.