Underdiagnosing of autism (ASD) in women with anorexia (AN)

Diagnosis of Autism in women is often missed which can result in the condition being diagnosed at a later stage or not at all. Often women are misdiagnosed resulting in unnecessary or inappropriate long term treatment with or without psychopharmaceuticals.

Lack of or omitted diagnosis of ASD in women during their adolescent life makes them vulnerable to development of secondary psychological problems including AN. Due to the fact that ASD in girls and women is frequently underdiagnosed, it is the eating disorder that is noticed in the medical world.

The cause of underdiagnosis of ASD in women

There are a few reasons why this happens. With women who have a normal to high level of intelligence it is difficult to diagnose ASD as they have learnt to adapt their behavior to comply to what is asked of them, also they are verbally strongwhich results in very good cognitive skills giving the impression that they can function normally in everyday life.

Another reason is that ASD in women is different than for men, as in women it’s often not recognized as such. An example: a boy with ASD in a school class will externalize problematic behavior more often, which gives rise to investigate the possible cause of his behavior. A girl with ASD in a school class will be very quiet, because she will tend to internalize her problems. Teachers often find it more comfortable to have quiet students who will be less likely to give reason to investigate whether there might be something wrong with this girl.

In addition, the diagnosis of ASD in women is complicated by the fact that most diagnostic tests are validated with men. This makes it less likely that women will come forward with symptoms of ASD by the use of these instruments, which leads to an underestimation of ASD in women.