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Signs you might be autistic (and not know it)
by TeenHelp November 7th 2021, 09:31 AM

Signs you might be autistic (and not know it)
By Holly (Celyn)

Many people go through their life without knowing they might be autistic. This might be because family members, teachers and friends might not know much about autism or might only know about the autistic stereotype (usually a boy, who has few friends, isn’t particularly verbal and is ‘obsessed’ with particular topics for example, trains) and therefore might not see you as being autistic. This is especially true if you are female as many females are less likely to be diagnosed with autism and may be more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression or misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder before being recognised as autistic (Source). Many autistic people also learn to ‘mask’ their autism, such as learning social scripts, rehearsing what to say, copying others (and consciously choosing not to engage in something that is socially frowned upon), which can also prevent their autism from being recognised (Source).

However, just because you are not diagnosed as autistic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t autistic. Autism is lifelong and even if you are diagnosed during adolescence or adulthood, there will have been signs of autism earlier in your life (Source).

The diagnostic criteria of autism spectrum disorder (including what was previously known as Asperger Syndrome) is often split into several main areas, including: sensory, social interaction and repetitive/rigid behaviour (Source). Below is a list, split into these same areas, with examples, to help you identify autism. This list is not exhaustive and is not meant to generalise to all autistic people. Some autistic people might experience all, some or very few of these traits. People who aren’t autistic might also exhibit some of these traits too.

Sensory
  • You tend to avoid eye contact because it feels intense.
  • You flinch at sudden noises, especially if they are loud, such as fireworks and motorbikes.
  • You can’t stand the feel of certain textures, materials, clothing or tags on clothes.
  • You dislike hugs and other physical touch, such as holding hands, and can’t really explain why other than you don’t like how it feels.
  • You feel you have (or have had as a child) ‘weird’ phobias such as vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, lifts/elevators, due to the sudden noise or movements.
  • You dislike certain sounds or scents and find it difficult to concentrate when in a noisy or smelly environment.
  • You may be ‘clumsy’ dropping things, walking into things or you have poor co-ordination- struggling to catch or hit ball, driving difficulties etc.
  • You have been described as a ‘picky eater’ but you really can’t stand the tastes or textures of certain foods. You may have a limited diet.
Alternatively….
  • You love touch, hugs and physical contact.
  • You find certain lights/patterns/movements/sounds/scents appealing and seek them out.
  • You want, or have, a weighted blanket.
  • You have ‘quirky’ habits such as rocking back and forth, touching your fingertips together, flapping or clapping, often when you feel anxious or excited.

Social
  • You feel older, younger, both, or just not your biological age and you get on better with younger or older people, even adults, or animals, rather than someone the same age as you.
  • You feel more comfortable communicating in writing, such as emails/texting, than face to face or on the phone.
  • You find you have more internet friends than friends in person and feel your online friends know you better than other people in your life.
  • You have 1 or 2 intense friendships.
  • You are happiest by yourself and don’t often feel lonely nor that you need to have lots of friends.
  • You’ve been called sensitive and relate to descriptions of a ‘highly sensitive person’ ‘empath’ and ‘people pleaser’.
  • You take people at their word and are deeply disappointed when they let you down (most likely they may not have been serious keeping their word).
  • You may talk at people or lecture people on your favourite subjects. You don’t engage or see the point in shallow small talk.
  • You might not know when others are starting to get bored or you may feel very upset that others don’t share the same enthusiasm as you for your favourite subject.
  • You don’t like speaking on the phone. You get anxious and tend to avoid speaking on the phone.
  • You rehearse/plan what you want to say and how certain conversations/scenarios play out.
  • You’re interested in psychology as a way of trying to understand how the world, or other people, works. You’ve read up about body language.
  • You feel fake and that you are acting when interacting with others.
  • You go along with others even if you don’t want to, just to fit in.
  • You aren’t interested in ‘following the crowd’ for example, fashion, sports and fads and are happiest doing your own thing. Alternatively, you try very hard to follow what’s popular.
  • You feel you don’t know how to just ‘be’ yourself.
  • You may talk over others or interrupt though you might not mean to.
  • You feel you don’t know how to comfort someone when they are experiencing strong emotions, such as sadness, as it may arouse strong feelings in yourself too.
  • You sometimes don’t understand why others feel the way they do.
  • You don’t understand why you don’t find things funny that others do.
  • You might take things literally and not realise when someone is exaggerating. You also might not pick up on ‘hints’ that other people use subtly.
  • Alternatively, you find yourself often overthinking and wondering if people are hinting about things.
  • You don’t always relate to ‘social anxiety’ because you aren’t necessarily worried about being judged, but you still feel anxious in social situations.
  • You might treat everyone the same, regardless of ‘social status’ (treating a teacher or a boss the same as you would treat someone in your class or a work colleague of the same status as you)
  • You don’t have many friends.
  • Other people have said that you are boring, weird, loner, shy etc.
  • You feel you upset or annoy others but don’t really know why.
  • You feel others don’t understand you.
  • You feel others judge you for being ‘different’.
  • You feel you’ve been born in the wrong- body, country, era, or planet.
  • You worry about being a ‘toxic friend’ or feel that you may be a ‘burden’.
  • You don’t understand why things seem easy for others but are difficult for you.
  • You feel you are treated differently (but don’t know why).
  • You dislike the advice of being told to just be yourself because when you are, others might not understand you.
  • You may not know when someone is joking/teasing or struggle to know when someone is joking or bullying.
  • You’ve been bullied (and often don’t know why).
  • You get taken advantage of but don’t realise until later on or when someone points it out to you.

Repetitive/rigid behaviour
  • You are happy to do the same things over and over, for example, listen to the same song on repeat for ages, watch the same film a few times in a row.
  • You get obsessed with interests to the point where they are all you talk about, and you may forget to eat or drink or focus on anything else.
  • Sudden changes create anxiety in you.
  • You need to know in advance about any plans or changes to plans because otherwise you will feel anxious.
  • You feel anxious, especially with changes or social situations, but you might find it difficult to say why you feel anxious.
  • You overthink and over plan everything or you don’t plan at all.
  • You feel you are lazy and struggle with procrastination.
  • It’s difficult for you to motivate yourself to do things that you don’t want to do.
  • You need a routine.
  • You need your alone time.
  • You can concentrate for long periods of time or you struggle with concentration.
  • You like to think deeply about things.
  • You like to figure out how things work and prefer to get to know even the smallest of details that others may not find necessary.
  • You’ve been told you have good attention to detail or you are good at spotting things e.g. mistakes, patterns.
  • You like learning and education, just not the people or sounds or smells at school.
  • You learn things by yourself, have picked up skills by teaching yourself (especially if you pick things up quickly and to a good standard).
  • You have a good memory.
  • You are passionate about truth, honesty, loyalty and hate injustice and lies.

Further suggestions that you may be autistic (especially if the above is true) can include:
  • You have struggled/been diagnosed with: anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar, PTSD, or a personality disorder.
  • You feel therapy isn’t working for you, or that you aren’t doing therapy properly.
  • You often don’t know how you feel, struggle with identifying your emotions or can’t seem to put your feelings into words (Source).
  • You feel there is something ‘wrong’ with you, that you are ‘different’ or ‘not normal’ and as a result, you want to ‘fix’ or make yourself ‘better’.
  • You have been diagnosed with ADHD or another disability such as dyspraxia, dyslexia or dyscalculia.
  • You have hypermobility.
  • You were seen as ‘gifted’ in school.
  • You identify as LGBT+ and/or you don’t relate to your gender identity (Source).
  • You relate to the ‘nerdy’ or ‘underdog’ characters in books or films.
  • You have a family member with autism, ADHD or a learning disability.


Relating to some, or even quite a few, of these points does not necessarily mean that you are autistic. If you believe that you may be autistic, you can read more information here:

World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases version 11 https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#...tity/437815624
NHS Autism https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/
National Autistic Society https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and...what-is-autism
Autism Spectrum Quotient Test https://psychology-tools.com/test/au...ctrum-quotient
Aspie Quiz http://rdos.net/eng/Aspie-quiz.php
Samanatha Craft’s Autistic Traits Checklist http://www.myspectrumsuite.com/saman...its-checklist/

If you believe that you may be autistic, you can talk to your doctor about a referral for an autism assessment. However, it’s entirely your decision- some people are self-diagnosed and feel that the knowledge they get from reading about autism is enough, while for others, they may feel that they would benefit from having their autism officially recognised and access to specialised support. Whatever you choose to do, remember that you are valid, just as you are.
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