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Why so many women with autism go undiagnosed or get misdiagnosed

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2022 | Medical Malpractice |

Many residents of New Jersey and other areas have autism. However, some may go years misdiagnosed or even undiagnosed. This trend significantly affects women, and these are a few reasons why.

Understanding autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is still mostly misunderstood. First discovered in the 1940s, it’s believed to develop from genetic reasons and other, unknown causes. Autism affects the way a person learns, communicates, behaves and interacts with others. It’s an “invisible” condition that has varying levels; some people are nonverbal while others are very intellectually verbal. Some people require help in their everyday lives while others can live independently.

Why women are less likely to be diagnosed

ASD develops before 3 years old, but depending on when symptoms start showing, some people are diagnosed later. Women are often misdiagnosed or receive a delayed diagnosis after they have children who are diagnosed with ASD.

Typical ASD traits in males include a strong interest in a specific subject or item such as science or trains. Females may also have strong interests as well, but they usually focus on a person such as a friend or celebrity. They often use social media sites to mimic people they admire as well. At the same time, girls and women with ASD have social challenges and find it hard to fit in with their peers. They often prefer to be alone.

Women with ASD who go undiagnosed often self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Some end up in abusive relationships. These behaviors occur because they have low self-esteem and trouble coping with their symptoms. Autism and its symptoms are mostly associated with males, leaving women misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. This could equate to malpractice as there’s a lack of understanding of how the disorder affects women.

Being misdiagnosed due to your gender is harmful and impedes your ability to get the help you need.