What is ASD? What are the Symptoms of Autism in Adults?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect one’s ability to communicate or socialize. Because each case has a different set of symptoms, diagnosis is placed on a spectrum with a variety of signs and distinctions in severity.

Instead of viewing Autism as a disorder, some instead define it as a unique and alternate way of thinking and processing information. They might use terms like “neurotypical,” “neurodivergent,” or “neurodiverse” in an attempt to describe autism and destigmatize other developmental differences.

Autism spectrum disorder can affect all ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups. Social and behavioral challenges are typically recognized, diagnosed, and treated in childhood. Children who do not receive treatment early on often grow into adults who struggle to fit in in society.

Autism Symptoms in Adults: Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults

Awareness of the Autism spectrum in adults is improving as the demand for evaluation becomes more frequent. Understanding how older individuals fit on the spectrum is changing exponentially. Late diagnosis is becoming much more common as well. Luckily, research also shows that even delayed therapy can help to improve the functioning and life of “sensational adults” who might have trouble performing certain tasks, for example, at work or school.

Read: Recreational Activities For Children With Autism

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of autism occur in three main areas: communication, behavior, and emotion, though each individual experience is different. Noted symptoms, e.g., avoiding eye contact, can be similar to those among children, except many adults will have found ways to adapt or mask their disparities.

Adults with Autism usually get very anxious about entering social situations. They find it hard to join in the conversation, to express themselves, or understand what others are thinking or feeling. They grapple with reading body language and emotions. And, of course, they avoid small talk, get nervous with proximity, and speak in a flat, monotone voice, or not at all.

Having trouble reading social cues, adults with autism can seem blunt, rude, or uninterested, sometimes even eccentric, odd, introverted, or narcissistic. All of that is detrimental to establishing or sustaining social relationships. Issues maintaining connections with others can, in turn, cause depression and feelings of isolation. Adults on the spectrum that missed an early diagnosis may have felt misunderstood for years without explanation.

And last but not least, self-stimulation can be a strong indicator of autism. Just think of “stimming,” i.e., repetitive behavior such as flapping or rubbing hands together, playing with fingernails, picking at the skin, tucking hands under or between legs, fist-clenching, pacing in circles, or constantly clearing the throat.

High-Functioning Autism Symptoms in Adults

Many autistic adults lead excellent lives with wonderful relationships and bright careers. “High-functioning autism” isn’t a medical term but is often used to describe those whose viability has not been significantly compromised. Strong attention to detail, the ability to work independently, and character traits such as loyalty, compassion, kindness, honesty, and a lack of judgment serve to benefit rather than hinder one’s existence.

Asperger’s syndrome

Aspergers is a neurodevelopmental disorder defined by notable trouble socializing and communicating.  Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests are common. People with Aspergers are highly intelligent but quite socially awkward. The condition is often associated with “high-functioning autism”.

Problems With Diagnosis Symptoms of High Functioning Autism in Adults

There are currently no standard diagnostic criteria as there are no reliable biomarkers of autism. The condition is diagnosed based on observing behavior and an analysis of patient history, including background information of neuro-developmental conditions or psychiatric difficulties.

Severe forms of ASD are usually diagnosed in the first two years of a child’s life. But, high-functioning individuals may not be diagnosed until much later if the symptoms are overlooked. Some individuals might not have the financial means or want to bear the emotional cost of testing. There are people who recognize the signs of mild autism in adults and self-identify but do not see the benefits of having a formal examination. Many will learn to live with their challenges.

Being Autistic raises the risk of other disorders and complications, like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Dyslexia, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Comorbidity could make it more difficult to attribute symptoms to Adult ASD. There are a number of reasons, but because it is uncommon for adults to be diagnosed with Autism, they are generally not given the same support as children.

Often, a high-functioning adult will seek help based on specific problems, like depression or anxiety. With more adults asking for evaluation, our knowledge about autism in adults will advance. New resources and assistance will also continue to become increasingly available.

Read: Parents Guide to Dealing with ADHD in Children

Does Gender Play a Role?

On record, more men than women suffer from ASD. About three to one. However, there may be factors that might heavily impact the numbers and statistics. For example, diagnostic procedures can overlook ASD presence in women who are good at hiding the usual symptoms.

Why Diagnosis Is a Challenge With Women

Female Autism Phenotype (FAP) can make it difficult to diagnose. That is, girls might be slightly more social, though an aversion to social norms is often a synonym for quirkiness in their case. Being sensitive and having troubles with emotions is simply a result of hormonal imbalances and puberty, too, according to many. They also typically display less repetitive and self-stimulatory behaviors compared to boys. So, the evidence might not be conclusive because women are better at camouflaging their problems.


Mimicking normal or expected social behaviors to fit in can mask the mild symptoms in adults with ADS. Conducts like forcing eye contact, preparing comments or quips before a conversation, or imitating actions to appear normal, can be recognized in both genders but is particularly noted with women.

Can We Cure Autism?

There is no cure for ASD. However, there are ever-improving therapies and support groups to help those with autism build a better sense of identity. Usually, the key is in encouraging them to use personal strengths to overcome sensory difficulties and to develop a better understanding of their experiences to be able to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Treatment for autism symptoms in adults can entail a combination of different treatments, including occupational therapy and sensory techniques. Furthermore, adults with ASD may sometimes receive cognitive, verbal, and applied behavioral therapy. For others, medication might be necessary.

ABA Therapy for Adults

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is commonly applied to change or mold habits in autistic teens and adults. It uses motivation and constant feedback to encourage wanted practices while decreasing undesirable actions. Then, we can use the data to foster certain goals and target skills to eventually refine self-awareness and increase independence.

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