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Self-Diagnosed Autism: A Growing Trend

Photo by Giovanni Gagliardi (Unsplash)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a unique way that some people’s brains work, making social situations and communication a bit different for them. The rise of self-diagnosed autism has brought increased attention to this condition, as many individuals are discovering online that it resonates with their experiences. While doctors usually diagnose ASD, this trend raises questions about the necessity of a formal diagnosis, especially if traditional support like ABA services isn’t easily available.

Understanding Self-Diagnosed Autism

Have you ever wondered if you might be autistic? Maybe you’ve read about it, thought about your own experiences, and it just clicked. You’re not alone! Some people figure this out on their own, especially since getting a professional diagnosis can be tricky. For some, figuring it out on their own can be a relief, as it helps them understand themselves better and connect with others who share similar experiences.

However, experts say this method isn’t ideal. Professionals have special training and tools to make a definite diagnosis and avoid confusing autism with other conditions that share similar traits. This way, people get the right kind of help.

Arguments about Self-Diagnosis

Figuring out if you might be autistic can be a confusing journey. According to a survey of our 2020 Behavior BCBAs, there are mixed perspectives on self-diagnosis. While 73.33% support it with caution, 26.67% are against it altogether. This reflects the fact that self-diagnosis can be a valuable tool for some, but professional guidance is important as well. Let’s explore both sides of the coin and weigh the arguments in favor and against self-diagnosing autism.

Arguments in Favor of Self-Diagnosed Autism

Getting a professional diagnosis is ideal, but it can be expensive and time-consuming. That’s why some people turn to self-diagnosis. They find it helpful to understand themselves better and connect with supportive online communities. Let’s explore the reasons why people choose self-diagnosis:

  1. Opening Doors: For many, especially adults who might have been overlooked as children, self-diagnosis is a crucial first step. Traditional diagnoses can be costly and time-consuming, especially in areas with limited resources. Self-diagnosis empowers individuals to find support, connect with others, and learn strategies that make life better.
  2. Discovering You: Recognizing yourself in the description of autism can be incredibly freeing and validating. It opens a window into deeper self-understanding and gives you the tools to speak up for your needs. For some, it’s the first step to feeling good about who you are and getting the mental health support you need.
  3. Community Support: The online autism community offers a welcoming space for those who identify as autistic. It can be a lifeline for people who feel isolated, providing a sense of belonging and shared experience.

Arguments Against Self-Diagnosed Autism

While self-diagnosis can be a starting point, there are important reasons to consider seeking professional evaluation for autism. Here’s why getting a formal diagnosis from a qualified expert can be crucial:

  1. Risk of Misdiagnosis: One of the primary concerns about self-diagnosis is the potential for misdiagnosis. Autism shares symptoms with several other conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, and sensory processing disorders. Without a professional evaluation, individuals might incorrectly label themselves, which can lead to inappropriate coping strategies and support.
  2. Undermining Professional Expertise: Trained professionals have a deeper understanding of the diagnostic process. They’re able to see the bigger picture in a way that self-assessment might miss.
  3. Misrepresentation: There’s a concern that self-diagnosis could accidentally make autism seem less serious than it is. It’s important to understand the condition accurately so that the right support goes to the right people.

While self-diagnosis is a helpful starting point, it’s important to be aware of its limitations. Mental health professionals have the expertise and specialized tools to make a thorough assessment and ensure you get the right support.

Stories from Self-Diagnosed Individuals

To better understand why someone might self-diagnose, it’s helpful to hear directly from those who have done so. Here are a few personal stories about their journeys:

  • Sarah, 25: “I always felt different, struggled with social cues, and had intense interests. Researching autism online resonated deeply with my experiences. While I haven’t pursued a formal diagnosis yet, self-identifying has helped me understand myself better and connect with the autistic community.”
  • David, 42: “Growing up, autism wasn’t on my radar. As an adult, I stumbled upon online resources that described my struggles perfectly. Seeking a diagnosis feels daunting, but understanding I might be autistic has helped me navigate social situations and sensory overload.”
  • Emma, 32: “I always felt different, but I never had a name for it. When I stumbled upon articles about autism, it was like a light bulb went off. I saw myself in those stories. The more I read, the more it made sense. Self-diagnosing gave me the language to understand myself better.”
  • Sophia, 28: “I did a lot of research and found that many of my traits aligned with autism. The idea of going through a formal diagnostic process felt overwhelming and unnecessary for me. Identifying as autistic helped me connect with others who shared similar experiences and find coping strategies that work for me.”
  • Michael, 40: “I struggled with social interactions and sensory issues my whole life. When I read about autism, it resonated with me deeply. I decided to pursue a formal diagnosis, which confirmed my self-diagnosis. The process validated my experiences and helped me access the support I needed.”

The Role of Online Communities

Online communities have become a welcoming space for many exploring self-diagnosis. Platforms like Reddit and Twitter offer a place to connect with others, share experiences, and learn from each other. You can find personal stories, tips for managing daily life, and even resources to help you dive deeper into learning about autism.

Just a friendly reminder: it’s always a good idea to be mindful of the information you find online. Not everything is reliable, so it’s always a good idea to double-check information and consider talking to a professional if you can.

Professional Perspectives

Many professionals acknowledge the limitations of the current diagnostic system and the barriers that individuals face in accessing formal evaluations. Dr. Tony Attwood, a clinical psychologist specializing in autism, has expressed support for self-diagnosis in certain contexts. He states, Self-diagnosis can be an important first step for individuals who feel they may be on the spectrum but lack access to professional services. It can lead to greater self-awareness and the pursuit of formal diagnosis when resources become available.
At the same time, professionals emphasize the importance of a comprehensive evaluation. Dr. Judith Gould, a leading expert in autism diagnosis, explains, While self-diagnosis can provide initial validation, it’s important to recognize the complexities of autism and the potential for overlap with other conditions. A formal diagnosis ensures that individuals receive accurate information and appropriate support.

Moving Forward

Whether you choose to see a professional or not, remember you’re not alone. Many people are on the same journey!
If you’re curious about autism, exploring on your own is a great first step. But for a clear understanding and a personalized plan, it’s best to talk to the experts. Getting an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan that fits you perfectly is like finding the right key for a lock – it takes a special kind of expertise.
At 2020 Behavior, a formal autism diagnosis is required for services. Seeking support? We can’t diagnose, but as BCBAs, we offer resources and can guide you to qualified professionals for evaluation to get you the support you deserve.

Conclusion

The conversation surrounding self-diagnosed autism highlights the need for increased access to professional services, particularly ABA therapy provided by BCBAs. With nearly 60,000 BCBAs practicing in the US, the demand for their expertise is clear.
While self-diagnosis can be a valuable first step towards self-understanding, professional evaluation is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. By listening to and respecting those who have self-diagnosed, we can foster a more supportive community.
If you’re considering self-diagnosis, educating yourself about autism is a great place to start. If you’d like to connect with experienced professionals who can offer personalized guidance and support, we’re here for you. Feel free to reach out to us at 2020 Behavior – we’re happy to help!

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