adult autism diagnosis when you have learned to cover

Anonymous said to :

I’ve suspected that I was autistic for a long time, as has a parent of mine who has worked extensively with autistic kids, but I was in a severely under-diagnosed demographic, still am, and on top of that by necessity a lot of my more overtly autistic behaviors have been covered up, compensated for, or eliminated so I could get by.

I know I’m probably still autistic, I mean you can’t get rid of all of it and I know there are definitely things going on still, but I’m afraid they won’t believe me.

realsocialskills said:

They might not believe you. I’m not going to lie and tell you that you will definitely be believed.

That said, the current diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 do account for this somewhat:

Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).

Whether you’ll be believed is somewhat unpredictable, and a matter of luck. Not all doctors use the new criteria, and a lot of doctors believe things about autism that aren’t particularly related to the diagnostic standards.

(Eg: some doctors think that girls can’t be autistic, even though there have been diagnosed girls as long as the diagnosis has existed. Or that people who can talk, hold down a job, and have friends can’t be autistic. Or any number of other stereotypes).

I don’t know what to tell you about how to find a doctor who will take the new diagnostic standards seriously. They definitely exist, but I don’t know any reliable way to identify them.

If you have documentation of autistic traits in childhood, that is likely to be helpful. (Eg: school records, baby book, etc.)

tl;dr Adult autistic diagnosis in theory can take into account the fact that coping skills can mask symptoms. In practice, whether or not you find someone who will take that seriously is largely a matter of luck.