Seeking an Autism Diagnosis? Here’s Why You Might Want to Rethink That.
I literally wrote the book on the large and diverse population of Autistic adults who, for a variety of reasons usually related to marginalization, make it well into adulthood before discovering they have a disability. I call this group of Black, brown, trans, gay, female, elderly, and impoverished Autistics “masked Autistics,” or “maskers,” because we often cope with having an undiagnosed disability by learning to fake neuro-conforming behaviors. Masked Autistics may become so accustomed to hiding our true feelings and compensating for our limitations that we don’t feel in touch with our actually Autistic selves much at all.
A lot of masked Autistics have imposter syndrome about their disability — they think that because they’ve managed to cope thus far with persistent sensory agitation, social confusion, ostracism, and difficulty following vague instructions, that they must not be “disabled enough” to warrant help or a place in the disabled community. Masked Autistics turn their own flawed coping mechanisms against themselves, believing that since they can force themselves to smile ‘normally’ (even if it’s painful), they should continue to grit their teeth and do so. Or that since it’s possible for them to white-knuckle their way through a forty-hour work week (even if it comes at the expense of eating, socializing, or having any hobbies), they don’t truly deserve accommodations or extra help.
To get over that powerful imposter syndrome and validate that their struggles are genuine, many masked Autistics seek a formal psychiatric diagnosis. But finding a formal diagnosis as an adult — especially one who masks — is very hard. Nearly every day I open up my inbox and Twitter DM requests to find several detailed, frustrated messages from people who suspect they might be Autistic, but aren’t quite sure yet, and are begging for my help in locating an assessor who might diagnose them.
In most cases, I encourage adults who are seeking a formal Autism diagnosis to rethink that desire. There are very few guaranteed benefits that come along with an Autism diagnosis, and the costs and the risks attendant to seeking one are quite substantial, and only getting worse. There are…