Adult female diagnosis help, what can I do?

I think I have autism. I have only really thought about this deeply in the past two months but the more I read, the more I am sure. I read papers and articles on autism in females and how sometimes it can be hidden or masked. I am 23, and have always had problems with communication, I remember as a child hating birthday parties, hiding under tables and locking myself in rooms to get away. I remember avoiding conversations by simply going mute. I have always had unstable friendships and even now, I cling to my boyfriend as a support and he is the only one I have to talk to. He doesn't think that I have autism. He thinks that I am just difficult and shy. A label I am all too familiar with. I was always "nervous, shy and quiet". I have, what I thought was nervous tics, I shake my legs and hands and I rub my ears and neck. I hate loud music and sounds but I love the feeling of the vibration from the speakers. I can't stand loud talking or eating, crowds of people scare me and communication is only made when completely necessary. I avoid eye contact and cannot engage in social chit chat. I could go on. I have taken various online screening tests such as RAADS and AQ, scoring high in both.. A 191 in raads and a 37 in AQ. I haven't asked my parents as honestly I am scared to, I feel like they will brush it off and say that im OK, but I know in my heart that there is something different about me, something that affects my behaviour and social life every day. Any advice for next steps would be greatly appreciated, and if there is anyone there who has gone through the same thing please reach out. I feel alone.

  • Hi. I'm 25 and I decided to pursue diagnosis just over a year ago. 

    I can relate to quite a few of the things you've mentioned here. I definitely remember hating birthday parties as a child; I used to cling to my parents and cry when they left me, then I just felt lost and didn't know how to get involved. Eventually, other children just stopped inviting me.

    I've also read a lot about autism and I think I do a lot of masking. My partner, my parents and my sister are the only people who've ever witnessed just how autistic I am (e.g. when I'm having a meltdown). I hold in the anxiety throughout the day and it all comes out when I get home, although people who know me can tell when I'm anxious; I have a nervous head tic that happens when I'm really stressed, and I also have to have some kind of movement (such as fiddling with my hair, wringing my hands, jiggling my leg etc.) in order to stay calm.

    My best advice would be to write down some examples of what you know about autism and why you've identified those characteristics in yourself (like you have here). If your GP's unhelpful (as mine was), you could try self-referring to your local NHS mental health service. I referred myself for anxiety and included details about how I felt an autism diagnosis would help me (e.g. my sensory issues are usually worsened when I'm anxious, so I needed coping strategies for both the anxiety and the sensory issues). The mental health nurse who assessed me was really helpful and he was the one who referred me for an autism referral. I'm still on the waiting list at the moment, but I know the waiting times differ greatly depending on your area.

    I know that parents are sometimes helpful in the diagnostic process (they may be asked to share their experiences of how you behaved as a child), so if you can talk to them, it might be beneficial. However, whether they agree with your decision to pursue a diagnosis or not, it is ultimately your decision. I thought my Dad wouldn't see the point in my seeking a diagnosis, but when we discussed the mental health benefits of getting to know myself better and finding coping strategies, he was fully supportive. 

    I hope everything goes well and you get the answers you're looking for.

  • From what you've written, pursuing a diagnosis seems like a logical step. I sought my diagnosis in my 30s and many people (whose only knowledge of autism was through outdated stereotypes) told me I couldn't possibly be autistic. I am.

    When you approach your GP about a ref it would help if you could write down examples of how you meet the criteria: