Many adults are getting diagnosed with autism. Something is making them seek an assessment.

Here are 10 things that make them wonder if they’re autistic.

A person who’s felt “normal” all their life doesn’t just wake up one day and think, “Hmmm, I wonder if I might be on the autism spectrum.”

No sir, doesn’t work that way. A person could feel out-of-place or not belonging to this world since childhood and still, well into adulthood, never consider that they just might possibly be autistic.

They might first consider they have a personality disorder (as I had done), or just be a “natural introvert.”

But at some point, self-diagnoses of anxiety, introversion, neurosis, OCD, ADHD, etc., lose their steam.

Something happens (and this may be a process rather than a single instant event) that finally makes that man or woman begin seriously wondering if they have ASD. It’s enough to compel them to seek a formal diagnosis.

10 Reasons an Adult Might Suspect They’re on the Autism Spectrum

All their life, they’ve felt disconnected and unable to fit in.

They often learn to blend with others through practice, but no matter how skilled they get at this (masking), it usually feels unnatural.

There’ve been other issues, too, that were never considered to be autism.

For example, I have an intense aversion to the feel of stickers on merchandise including fruit, and will avoid letting my fingertips come in contact with any kind of label: price, where it was made, manufacturer information and any other miscellaneous information for the product.

I’ll spend inordinate amounts of time scraping off stubborn stickers with an X-acto knife, having to get every last bit of the gooey paper off.

I can’t look at tumbleweeds under a car, or gel caps all stuck at the top of a bottle. If the edge of an open door is facing me such that I can’t see either side — I’ll have to get up and move the door so I can see one of its sides.

I’ve actually gotten off the toilet in the middle of a BM to do this. These quirky visual sensory issues are part of my autism.

But in the past, they never made me think, “Hmmm, could I be autistic?” Instead, I thought these issues were just part of me being me.

I’ve had hyperfixations all my life plus other autistic traits going on such as being very detail-oriented and too matter-of-fact.

I’ve missed sarcasm directed at me and tend towards literal (but not too literal) thinking. Again, I thought this was just me being me.

#1     Reading Subjective Experiences by Autistic People

Then I came upon a lot of content by autistic authors. That did it. I was stunned at how closely their experiences – both externally and internally – mirrored mine!

Other people, who’ve felt weird and out-of-place all their life, will eventually happen upon content authored by autistics.

Suddenly, the wayward dots will connect. They’ll see themselves in the narrative. They’ll go, “That’s me! I could’ve written this!”

#2     Seeing a Film or Video

More and more characters in film are being presented as autistic, and undiagnosed autistic viewers have identified with them, prompting a suspicion that they, too, are on the Spectrum.

A post on by an autistic said she never suspected the condition until she just happened to be watching a BBC documentary about autistic teens at school. She realized that her own teen years were very similar.

Another poster said that in high school he saw a reality TV episode that featured an autistic girl in the classroom.

The post says, “I thought, ‘Oh look, someone like me,’ and then the show was like, ‘She suffers from autism spectrum disorder.’”

#3     Partner Points It Out

The partner may or may not have a diagnosis of ASD, but nevertheless, mentions to their girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse that they might be on the Spectrum.

Such was the case of another poster on who had dated a woman who told him she had Asperger’s syndrome (the former name for mild autism in the U.S.).

She began describing the traits. The man saw himself in those traits and thought some were normal. He then told her, “Maybe I am on the spectrum too?”

#4     A Relative Points It Out

I would’ve began suspecting I was autistic 20 years ago had my sister, who had been already suspecting it, opened up to me about it. But she kept silent.

A poster on wrote that she had a “sensory meltdown in a brightly-lit shop” and “ranted” to her daughter about it.

The poster then quoted her daughter’s response: “You know you’re autistic, right?”

The daughter had always assumed her mother knew of the autism, but that was not the case. Eventually Mom got the diagnosis.

#5     Unique Circumstance Raises Suspicion

“In February of 2020, I was in a severe car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury,” says Brad Biren, a tax and elder law attorney with a specialty in crisis Medicaid planning, diagnosed with autism at 35.

“Oftentimes, such an injury is said ‘to add butane to existing embers.’ In my case, I had the embers of autism but never diagnosed; yet the process of healing after the accident amplified my symptoms of autism.

“I learned of my diagnosis when a very well-meaning healthcare provider asked me how I thought the traumatic brain injury had affected my autism.

“At that point I had yet to be diagnosed. I asked for clarification, and when it became clear that I did not know I was exhibiting strong symptoms of autism, the care provider explained the diagnosis using the DSM-V.

“After much reflection and discussion it became clear that I was already exhibiting many of the signs of autism prior to my car accident: the love of minutia, pattern-seeking, anxiety.

“It would have been difficult to diagnose earlier in life as well because my peers and family were very intelligent and similarly socially awkward; and so, we all blended together into our own definition of ‘normal.’”

#6     Child Gets Diagnosed with ASD

A parent will realize just how much they’re like their kid with the diagnosis, and then start suspecting that they, too, are autistic.

“I have my amazing 16-year-old to thank for that!” says Clarissa Harwell, LCSW, a therapist diagnosed with autism at 43.

“Around age 12, they began learning more and more about autism and suspected they might be autistic.

“My initial thought was, ‘No way! I would know. I’m their mother and I definitely would have realized if they were autistic.’” However, Clarissa’s teen received a clinical diagnosis.

Clarissa explains that the similarities between her and her child “got me thinking. For quite awhile I had thoughts like, ‘Well, I can’t be autistic because of, this, that and the other thing….I had so many reasons that I couldn’t be autistic.” Ultimately, the similarities couldn’t be ignored.

I met a 57-year-old man at an autism function who said he’d been diagnosed at 53 – after his young son had been diagnosed.

This is a rather common phenomenon. But as mentioned previously, the adult already is well-aware of having a history of feeling alien among others, or having social challenges, sensory struggles, issues with eye contact or facial expressions, and just plain trying to figure people out.

#7     History of Troubles at Various Workplaces

After years of having issues on the job, one may finally decide to undergo a psychological evaluation, but often, not before they first do a little research and conclude that autism best explains their negative experiences.

The problems at workplaces are broad and include not getting along or fitting in with coworkers, internal distress or resistance to change or transitions, being thought of as weird, having sensory issues and being blunt.

#8     Exhaustion After Social Events

This has been going on for years, and finally, the individual has HAD it and decides to research what could be going on, knowing that this is not normal.

Some autistic people, such as myself, have been employed mostly in jobs where oddness, peculiar traits or being blunt are tolerated, or worked in an isolated capacity such as a job I had in my own office proofreading legal documents.

However, some autistic individuals have jobs that require after-hours socializing or on-the-job heavy engagement in office politics.

Some are in customer service or have positions involving extensive interactions in which the right facial expressions, vocal intonations, knowing when to smile and chuckle and lots of handshaking are crucial.

The strain and drain on keeping up “the act” becomes too much, leading to burnout or a realization that something is clearly wrong.

#9     Being Asked, “Are you autistic?”

I’ve read of several accounts of people, eventually diagnosed with ASD, who’d get asked this question from time to time.

One might first think it’s a joke, but after getting asked a few more times – even over a very lengthy time lapse – they begin realizing that several people can’t all be wrong…can they?

This reflection brings on a closer look at one’s behaviors throughout life, how people responded to them in ways they didn’t understand, how things were difficult for them that came easier for others, how they seemed to be the only one adversely affected by something that didn’t phase other people, etc.

#10     Hearing All Their Life How They Lack Empathy

They’ve been called aloof, cold or too indifferent. I believe my brother is on the Spectrum.

One day I heard another brother commenting that if the first brother felt a job interview wasn’t going well, he’d probably tell the interviewer, “If you don’t give me this job I’ll punch you.”

My sister and I thought this was funny, while the first brother just kind of sat there with this…look…as though he felt insulted, yet at the same time, recognized that this was perhaps something he might really want to say to the interviewer.

This particular brother has been labeled as aloof on a number of occasions.

A person not yet diagnosed with ASD may hear other descriptors such as hardly talks at social gatherings, distances himself too much, has no feelings, doesn’t have empathy.

“Am I really cold and uncaring?” they may finally ask themselves. “Why do people see me that way?”

An investigation ensues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder fits the bill when they discover that the other traits of this neurotype fit them so well.

As for lack of empathy, this is more about what a neurotypical perceives than what an autistic person feels.

Brad Biren, Esq, LL.M, specializes in assisting individuals with special needs and diverse talents who are overcoming sudden adversity. He utilizes his inspiring tale of overcoming unexpected adversity to help motivate others in the community to pursue their goals.
Clarissa Harwell, LCSW, has worked with a diverse range of clients for 15+ years including families experiencing homelessness, children who’ve experienced abuse and neglect, new parents, adults impacted by severe mental illness, and children and teens engaging in high-risk behaviors.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem