The Mental Healthcare System Is Leaving Autistic Women Behind
As featured in
It’s time for those of us working in healthcare to step up and admit we’ve got a problem with how neurodivergence in women is diagnosed.
With rising numbers of women receiving autism diagnoses later in life, it begs the question— why are they flying under the radar for so long?
At our clinic, we spend so much of our time diagnosing women with autism and are faced with lots of young girls coming to us for private diagnosis.
There’s an entire cohort of women that have been misdiagnosed — at the mild end, with low level anxiety and depression, but at the more extreme end, borderline personality disorder.
Why Are So Many Women Diagnosed Late?
Autism is understood as the ‘extreme male mind’— and as medical professionals, the tools and measures we use to diagnose are all created with men in mind.
As autism is defined as a ‘social communication disorder’, the tools and tests are designed to capture this deficit in social communication, such as lack of eye contact and being socially inappropriate, all of which an autistic male will struggle with.
Therefore the tools look for such symptoms and voila! A man with autism should get a diagnosis, easy peasy.
But for women, its a much more complex picture — due to many reasons such as nature/nurture/environment/culture, autistic women appear to have been able to LEARN how to ‘do’ social communication.
The female profile often lies under the radar of the usual tests. Although on the inside they may be struggling, on the outside they are able to ‘mask’ and ‘camouflage’ their neurodivergence.
The problem is, these are learned skills which don’t come naturally – so they are putting on a version of themselves away from their authentic selves, causing mental health issues.
Read Jenna Vyas-Lee full article on Autistic Women