Adult Female Possibly on the Spectrum--Does anyone else share these experiences?

I’m a woman in my early 20’s. I had never considered being on the spectrum until recently, when I started watching videos and reading forums and articles about women with autism, and how their symptoms weren’t as commonly recognized in official diagnostic settings. The more I read about these women’s experiences, the more they seemed to line up with certain aspects of myself and challenges I’ve dealt with over the years. From what I remember, and from what I have asked my parents, I never displayed any sort of behavioral challenges. I never had outbursts, and while I was very shy, I was always able to make a few friends every year at school. I’d consider myself to be intelligent. I always got good grades, and I always really enjoyed school. When I look on official websites listing symptoms of autism, none of them seem to line up with my experiences. However, I wanted to reach out to this community with some of the issues I’ve had, and see if any of it resonates with any of your experiences; and if so, if I should attempt to get an official diagnosis.

I am very introverted. I wouldn’t say that I’m super shy anymore, but I always prefer to be by myself or with a small group of people I know well over any sort of social gathering. I tend to overanalyze things that I say at these social gatherings, and I sometimes feel like I put on a mask and pretend to be charming and social in these situations. I feel like I stumble over my words and sometimes I try to make jokes that land awkwardly. I’ve noticed (especially with friends) that I will copy mannerisms, common phrases, and even the laughs of people I am around a lot.

I’m not very comfortable with physical affection. I’ll hug my parents, but that’s about it. In general, I’m not super eloquent when speaking, but I personally think that I can write my thoughts and feelings very well. I’m not a huge fan of small talk; I’d much rather immediately start talking about deeper issues to try and get to know a person. I’ve also been told that I’m very gullible. I have a pretty monotonous voice, and I feel like I have trouble sometimes putting inflection into my sentences. I’ve been told that I have some slight auditory processing issues; my hearing is perfectly fine, but certain tones of voices, as well as even small amounts of background noise, can make it difficult for me to understand everything that’s being said in a conversation. I can also be very sensitive to certain fabrics and textures. To this day, I can’t stand wearing shirts with the tags still attached. I have to cut all of the tags off or it drives me crazy all day.

I am very trusting to the point where people have told me that I am naïve. There have been many times where somebody has a dry/serious sense of humor and tells a joke, and I think they are being serious, and then they tease me for not understanding that they were joking. I’ve been told that I’m very serious and even negative. I don’t think of myself as very negative, but just very introspective and thoughtful. I also obsessively rub at my skin. Typically I rub the skin on my hands, arms, and legs. I also rub my toes together a lot. I’ve done these behaviors for as long as I can remember. It definitely happens more frequently when I’m anxious about something, but I also do it in normal/calm situations. I also have an issue with digging at my scalp when I’m anxious.

Finally, I have always had hyper-fixations and fixed interests for as long as I can remember. When I would like a movie as a kid, I would rewind the movie 3 or 4 times and rewatch it over and over. Even now, I still have intense specific interests that will hold my attention for months or years at a time, and then I will move onto a new one. I’ll rewind very specific sections of a song that I really like and repeatedly listen to that particular lyric over and over. I also tend to daydream a lot, and make up fictional scenarios in my head to escape reality. Some days I’ve done this for hours at a time.

I would really appreciate any feedback or thoughts that people from this community might have. Thank you for your time!

  • Many of the things you mention sound very much like common autistic experience. For example:

    I can also be very sensitive to certain fabrics and textures. To this day, I can’t stand wearing shirts with the tags still attached. I have to cut all of the tags off or it drives me crazy all day.

    This is such a tell-tale sign, I was specifically asked about it during my autism assessment - but as it happens, I have no problem with labels on clothes.

    When I would like a movie as a kid, I would rewind the movie 3 or 4 times and rewatch it over and over.

    Hardly conclusive, but more common for autistic kids than non-autistic.

    I feel like I stumble over my words and sometimes I try to make jokes that land awkwardly.

    That's me in my 20s. I got more comfortable and socially adept, but was often socially behind people my own age.

    I’ve noticed (especially with friends) that I will copy mannerisms, common phrases, and even the laughs of people I am around a lot.

    Autistic women are known to deliberately copy social behaviour so as to fit in. But there's also 'echolalia' where people can use what's just been said, or 'scripting' in the sense of using phrases that may come from films or TV to express something. None of these things imply anything about anyone's intelligence, by the way. (The relationship with 'IQ' is too complicated for me to say anything sensible here.)

    if I should attempt to get an official diagnosis

    It's up to you. A lot of autistic people are happy with a self-diagnosis. The main thing a diagnosis brings (in the absence of autism-specific services) is self-understanding. Are you in the UK? An official diagnosis usually requires 'clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning', but I think that's not necessarily as strict as you might think - sometimes it's anxiety or depression or being underemployed. You allude to 'challenges' which may be enough to satisfy that. Really people can be autistic without any additional challenges, if they're in the right environment.

    There are some online screening things, if you're just interested: Here are some from academics including the 'Autism Quotient' (AQ), but I find the RDOS 'Aspie quiz' most interesting.

  • Yeap I can identify with everything you have written. The only thing I don't do is rub my skin.....I do however have a weird thing I do, I tense all my arm muscles until my arms come right up by my sides like chicken wings....

    I was also good at school only ever had one incident of physical aggression towards another person when  I was 5. I was told it was a rule that I wasn't allowed to do this.....so internalised most things from that point on.

    I can identify with how you talk about social interactions and my experience is almost identical. I have intense interests again that tend to last a couple of years and then I get a new one (this includes jobs).

    I was sure I was autistic but wanted an objective opinion by someone that had experience of meeting and working with multiple people who are autistic so I paid for my own diagnosis. 

    I won't pretend otherwise....the diagnostic process was difficult....I spent  pretty much every hour of the days prior to diagnosis analysing every aspect of my life. Interpreting my experience through the lens of autism gave clarity but also some feelings of guilt, grief, and regret for a childhood and relationships that could have been different if people had understood (not that my childhood was that bad just could have saved myself and my parents some really tough periods).

    Post diagnosis this carried on for a while it is like I had created a jigsaw of myself and I could see the picture but now I had realised there was a picture on the other side....the one through the understanding of being autistic.

    A few months further in and things have settled down. I am more appreciative of the benefits of my autism and have better understanding of how to navigate the world. By sharing the diagnosis with others it has helped with my relationships.

  • Reading what you have put down I can relate too. I was diagnosed in 2017 when I was 22 going on 23 years old. My parents didn’t think I was autistic until my dad was looking up traits and there was a number of things that he could relate to me. 
    It was a relieve when I got told I am autistic, but I never got any support afterwards. But from what you have described it does sound like you have some traits of autism.

    For example, I also cut off my labels on my clothes because I find them ichy, certain fabrics of clothes are itchy for me too, I don’t like loud noises, crowds, or tight spaces. I have panic attacks if I am lost and don’t know where I am, I prefer to be on my own instead of small groups and all through primary and high school and college I was bullied, used etc

    When I was getting diagnosed there were things in my childhood that my parents thought it was just normal behaviour when actually it was autism. For example, I use to get frustrated and upset on Easter when I couldn’t find my eggs but my brother had found all of his. Apparently that was to do with my autism too. 

    Maybe talk to your doctor and see if he/she can refer you for an assessment? That’s what my parents did for me and the best thing that happened, as I now understand why I am different (even though I didn’t get support) x

  • Hi, I too relate strongly to everything you have written. Your experience is pretty much how I was coming to terms with my autism. 

    Concerning the diagnosis I find it to be a huge relief and validation. It helped my confidence and self esteem, so I think going for the official diagnosis is empowering and liberating.

  • As much as it sucks to say at least it helps knowing there really are many other going through the same things.

    ive been getting into near death experiences lately try help find the answer to ‘why!?’. I recommend them wholeheartedly.