This is my first time here so apologies if I do this wrong.
I'm mid 40s and have always suffered from anxiety/depression and am now seeing similarities between symptoms of autism and myself. Is the only way of getting a diagnosis through your GP? I'm quite paranoid and I think my GP thinks I'm a hypochondriac so I hate the thought of having to go to her, I'm sure she'll just think I'm attention seeking or making it up.
It sounds like you might find the 'Adult diagnosis' page here on the NAS site helpful. You can find out about the benefits of diagnosis, how the process works, and what support you can get if you are diagnosed. You can have a look here: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/diagnosis/adults.aspx
It is true that most people get a diagnostic assessment by being referred through their GP. If you have concerns about your GP being unsympathetic would it be possible to see someone else?
If you'd like to talk about this with someone directly, please feel free to contact the NAS Helpline on 0808 800 4104.
Ross - mod
Asking to be referred for an assessment through your GP is the usual route. You're doing the right thing by doing your research first, in my opinion. As you suggest, GPs aren't usually very clued up about autism, and my experience is that if you have presented with anxiety/depression in the past, they will often struggle to see beyond that.
I was only diagnosed two years ago, when I was 45, and prior to that had been referred for mental health treatment half a dozen times over 30 years. Aside from two counsellors who suggested a generic psychological assessment (neither of which happened), no-one ever scratched below the surface enough to notice that I had an underlying condition, and autism was certainly never mentioned. I was surprised at my assessment to find that I wasn't the "borderline case" that I expected, my autism was easy for the assessor to spot, despite it being invisible to anyone previously (that I knew of, anyway.)
The more you can find out about what typically autistic traits you may have, the better your chance of convincing the doctor. In particular, the autism test questionnaires that you can find here are not just internet pop psychology. They are used as formal screening tools by most autism assessment teams, and even in that situation are self-reported without any prompting. So I suggest that you take those tests, take the results with you to the doctor, and be clear with the doctor that they are clinically proven for initial screening. Hanging about on forums like this one will also help you to be clear whether and why you suspect autism. Even two years after assessment, I still have several "aha" moments every week from communication with other autistic people - it's amazing how many things that you've taken for granted for decades can take on a whole new light.
If you are having trouble getting the GP to see this, there may be an alternative way, however. If you struggle with anxiety and depression, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for a referral to a counsellor or your local mental health team. When I finally got referred for assessment, it was because I had been referred for counselling again, and it was the mental health team worker responsible for assigning a counsellor to my case who suggested autism as an explanation for me being such a "repeat customer". She had a reasonable understanding of the condition, and was convinced enough to write to my GP to push for an assessment. This might be worth a try if your GP is reluctant.
Thank you so much for your response. I'l keep reading up on here first before I make any other move so I can at least be confident that I know what I'm talking about!
I'm worried I'm just clutching at straws. I had an abusive childhood but have no memory of what happened. This had led to 3 therapists bring unable to help as I couldn't bring up many specific incidents. I don't know if I've blocked it out purposely or it's just my awful memory. All that leaves me with is my being "odd".
I avoid people, I don't like being touched, I don't like people standing too close. I cant go out and weed the garden because I don' like people looking at me, I even got stones put down so I didn' have to mow the lawn. I can' look people in the eye for any length of time. And I have no mental filter so I say things no one else would and never know what exactly to say or do. It' all so embarrassing.
So maybe I'm just desperate for someone to say "THIS is what you have" so I don't just feel odd. But I don't want to waste anyone's time or reinforce the opinion that I AM just a hypochondriac.
Sorry for the rant!
Don't worry that you might be ranting. A lot of us come to places like this precisely because they're the only places that we can get things off our chest that we just can't talk about to anyone else. It's fine to do that here - it's something that most members need to do from time to time.
Having trouble recalling past experiences during counselling could itself be autism related. Many of us have a set of traits known as "Alexithymia", which can result in difficulty identifying our own feelings, and having memories that don't include very much emotional content. It seems to be common that Alexithymic people struggle with counselling. Like all traits of autism, it is very variable from person to person, and it occurs in non-autistic people too - but we do seem to be particularly prone to it.
However, I must emphasise that I'm not a trained psychologist, it is quite possible that your traumatic experiences have caused some other condition that appears similar to autism, or that you have both autism and some other co-morbid condition; for example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
There's another forum that I recommend to to you - Wrong Planet. Now, I'll warn you first that it's rather more chaotic than this one (avoid the political threads unless you enjoy verbal abuse no matter how reasonable and polite your arguments are!) However, while it is centred on autism, it has sub-forums which cover other conditions, and many members either have some other condition or have multiple diagnoses (i.e. autism plus co-morbids.) There are probably other similarly wide-ranging forums, but I find Wrong Planet useful because it has a very large membership. It's a bit too big to be so community oriented as some others, but for doing a bit of research from people's direct experiences, I find it very useful. You only have to sign up to be able to post; all but a small members-only "haven" can be browsed publicly. A little bit of wider research might help you to determine whether your traits best fit autism or some other condition.
Oh, and try not to worry too much about being a hypochondriac. From what I've seen, every single late-diagnosed adult has experienced the "impostor syndrome" - I still do sometimes, even after diagnosis. The fact that you have struggled with recurrent depression/anxiety indicates that there is something there to look into. I wish that I had started using forums like this before my diagnosis - it was the "impostor syndrome" that stopped me from doing it. Finding people who share similar problems and can offer support and advice is going to help you, even if the cause of those problems turns out not to be the same in the end.
Thank you, you'e been very kind. And helpful.
I actually went through the local CBT provider, who I did a self-referral with. I entirely skipped the GP process, I hadn't realised that was an option.
I called my local NHS-partnered CBT service and enrolled for an online course in CBT because I was struggling to cope. I had weekly phone calls with my supporting therapist, and during one of these calls I mentioned that I felt I could benefit from some more autism-specific help because I was confident that I am autistic. The therapist then requested my consent to refer me to my local autism team.
The autism team contacted me within around a month to arrange an initial meeting to discuss my needs, why I thought I needed a diagnosis, what sort of problems I have, some 'why do you think you're autistic' types of questions, then after another 2-month wait I received a letter inviting me to an appointment for a diagnostic assessment. Around a month later I attended the appointment, which according to the letter, typically lasts around 90 minutes. However, mine lasted just over two hours.
I was hesitant to go down the GP route at the beginning as I am also quite a paranoid person! I hadn't intended to do CBT in order to get a referral, but it was lucky that I brought it up and it turned out that referral by the CBT service was an option. You never know, CBT might also help you as well. If you do decide to try the route that I tried, I would suggest being honest with them e.g. "Hi, I have my suspicions that I have autism and I'm struggling to cope with the resulting anxiety/depression" and go from there.
I'd just like to wish you good luck - you're not alone in feeling this way. Embarassment, shame, fear, and feeling like a hypochondriac is really normal and something that I think I can say with confidence that most adult-diagnosed autistics have been through or are going through still. We're all here to support each other and sometimes we all need a bit of reassurance that other people can relate to our experiences, though the way that we navigate those experiences are all different. There's power in naming things, the desire to find answers is more than reasonable. Whether you find out you are autistic or not, I hope that you find the answers you seek and you can find comfort in them, I know I did.
I had no idea any of that was an option, so thank you, although I have just searched for online courses in my area and nothing appears to be available.
To be honest I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed so I think I'll leave it for the time being. My depression has been much better lately and although my anxiety is still rampant (I'm off work today yet I am sat on the sofa with butterflies in my stomach) so I would feel a fraud if I started enquiring about CBT when I'm not anywhere near my lowest point. Plus, I absolutely hate appointments of any kind, especially if I have to push myself forward and I'm useless at describing symptoms etc! I don' think I have the confidence at the moment for anything face to face.
But thank you for the information, I will continue to look into it all.
Hypochondriac is a medical condition. Not to be trifled with
You're very welcome. You may find it easier to search by "CBT" or "Talking therapies", Mind has a section on CBT as well, which you can find here.
Not being at your own rock bottom wouldn't make you a fraud, it's also helpful to remember that therapy is as much preventative as it is damage control. I understand why face to face could make you feel uncomfortable and why it could be difficult for you. What I find helps when describing symptoms is to write things down in preparation, even if it's just very brief notes e.g. what's happened this week, how that felt (even if it's physical sensations, it's all useful stuff).
Be kind and patient with yourself - you're not a fraud, and you're not making it up.
Welcome! The truth is, your GP's views cannot affect your requests. If they try to do so, then you can ask for another GP and state that this person is putting their beliefs ahead of your interests (which isn't even allowed anyways). I'd go to the GP and ask for the diagnosis :)
Much love <3