What are the symptoms of Autism (ASD) in adults?

autism in adults

What are the symptoms of Autism (ASD) in adults?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is generally characterised by social and communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors. Often, autism is diagnosed within the early years of a child’s life, however some individuals may not be diagnosed until much later in life.

It’s quite common for adults with ASD to have gone through life without an autism diagnosis, feeling that they don’t quite fit in. Feeling like this can be isolating and confusing, and while many people learn to cope with life in their own way, this can be hard work. 

Awareness of autism in adults has increased in recent years, and it is possible to be diagnosed with ASD as an adult. An accurate ASD diagnosis can offer major benefits and relief, even to adults who have lived with the condition all their lives.


What is Autism or ASD?

Autism – also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – is a neurological condition that is first expressed during childhood, and which persists into adulthood. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity. Asperger’s syndrome is a term no longer used but refers to a “high functioning” type of ASD.

Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease: it means your brain works in a different way from other people. ASD is not a medical condition with a “cure”, but specialist psychiatrists can support individuals with autism if they need help to live a happier day-to-day life.

Signs of autism in adults

The signs of autism typically occur in three key areas: 

  • Social interactions
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors

Because ASD is a ‘spectrum’, individuals can exhibit a wide range of symptoms, with varying degrees of severity. No two individuals with autism will exhibit the exact same symptoms. Some adults with autism may exhibit symptoms that resemble attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The main signs of autism in adults include:

  • finding it hard to empathise (to understand what others are thinking or feeling)
  • getting very anxious about social situations
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • finding it hard to verbalise how you feel
  • taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or idioms such as “spill the beans”
  • having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes


There are additional signs of autism which may indicate that an individual has ASD:


    • not understanding social “rules” that are generally followed by ‘neurotypical’ people, such as not talking over people
    • avoiding eye contact
    • getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
    • noticing small details, patterns, smells, or sounds that others do not
    • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • liking to plan things carefully before doing them


Whatever the symptoms an individual has, ASD can pose challenges in everyday life. The first step to improving day-to-day life for an adult living with undiagnosed autism is obtaining an accurate assessment and diagnosis. 


Do the signs of autism differ in men and women?

Autism can present differently in women and men. Autistic women tend to be quieter, may hide their feelings, and may appear to cope better with social situations than men with autism do.

Because of how autism symptoms present in women, the condition can be mistaken for a personality trait (‘she is shy’) rather than a neurological condition, which means it can be harder to tell if a woman is autistic. 

Getting an Autism diagnosis as an adult

Unfortunately, getting a diagnosis of Autism as an adult can be difficult and time-consuming.
There is no one objective test (such as a blood test) for ASD, which means that diagnosing it can be a complex process. The process requires a specialist autism psychiatrist to make a diagnosis after undertaking a detailed assessment.

The current consensus is that autism cannot develop in adolescence or adulthood. It is possible however for autism to be missed among people when they are younger, especially girls (for whom autism often presents differently) and individuals with high-functioning ASD. Because they aren’t accurately diagnosed as children, it might lead to some people believing they developed autism as an adult. This means that as part of the assessment, research will often need to be conducted into the patient’s history, including speaking to parents/siblings about the patient as a child, or looking through old school reports, in order to accurately diagnose autism.

Sadly, the NHS referral process can take several years depending on where you are geographically; this is the main downside of going through the NHS for an ASD diagnosis.
Luckily, there are now private ASD clinics where specialist psychologists can help you obtain an autism assessment and diagnosis much faster than the NHS can. For example, Sanctum clinic in Wilmslow, Cheshire, guarantees to respond to all autism enquiries within 24 hours, and patients can expect to be assessed and diagnosed within two weeks.

Help for adults with undiagnosed ASD

Private ADHD clinics such as Sanctum understand that individuals can struggle to live full and happy lives as a result of undiagnosed ASD. This is why private autism clinics aim to provide rapid access to assessment.

Choosing a private autism clinic such as Sanctum means that you can begin your assessment journey immediately without any waiting times.

If you think you may be displaying signs of autism, Sanctum clinic can help. We are a private specialist Autism clinic based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We understand that you may be feeling confused and anxious, and we are here to reassure you that support is available.

We can offer an autism assessment within 24 hours of you getting in touch with us, and you can expect to receive a diagnosis within two weeks. Based on the diagnosis, we can then start to help you plan a pathway to a happier, healthier future.

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