Growing up I barely spoke outside the house. I knew that I should speak but could not, even though I wanted desperately to fit in.

Sonja, autistic adult

Autism can be diagnosed at any age and affects males and females equally. Every autistic person has their own unique experience of autism.

This page tells you about signs and symptoms that might indicate a person is autistic. You can find out about co-occurring conditions that are more common in autistic people.

Common signs and symptoms

These are some of the more common signs and symptoms that might indicate that a person is autistic. Not all autistic people will experience all of these symptoms.

  • delayed or absent speech
  • problems listening, concentrating and understanding
  • frequent repetition of words and phrases
  • taking things literally
  • difficulty sensing and interpreting people’s feelings
  • difficulty expressing feelings
  • over or under sensitivity to sound, touch, taste, smell or light
  • rituals or repetitive behaviours
  • disliking changes to routine
  • difficulty making friends and socialising

Co-occurring conditions that are more common in autism

Autistic people are often diagnosed with other medical or mental health conditions as well as their autism. These related conditions are sometimes called co-morbidities or co-occurring conditions.

It’s important to know if an autistic person has a co-occurring condition so that any symptoms caused by that condition can be identified and treated effectively. Sometimes, co-occurring conditions can make the symptoms of autism worse and vice-versa.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, although the symptoms of ADHD can persist into adulthood. ADHD is sometimes diagnosed alongside autism.

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Anorexia Nervosa is a severe eating disorder that affects women and men. Research has shown that autistic women are much more likely to develop anorexia than non-autistic women.

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Anxiety is a mental health problem that is common in both autistic adults and autistic children. Anxiety can have a big impact on daily life, for example coping at school or at work.

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Depression is a mental health problem that is common in autistic people. Depression can have a big impact on daily life and can lead to suicidal thoughts.

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Epilepsy is more common in autistic people than in the general population with symptoms most likely to develop during the teenage years.

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Learning disability

Learning disability is a lifelong disorder diagnosed in childhood. Around 4 in 10 autistic people have a learning disability.

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It’s more common for autistic people to think about suicide, and die by suicide, than the general population.

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