Possible autism in friend?(8 Posts)
I posted a thread on relationships about a friend of mine which was completely ignored . It was mainly about how worried I am by her relationship choices and naivety, and the fact that she doesn't seem to have 'matured' emotionally in quite the way most of our peers have. She's such a lovely person but she seems to be stuck in some ways? She has bipolar disorder and is on lots of meds for that so I've always put certain behaviours down to that but since my DS was diagnosed with AS and ADHD I've been reading everything I can get my hands on and something just clicked for me. This is some of what I've noticed:
- she did very well academically at school and at university but has struggled since then. She works as a TA but hasn't had any real career progression in the past 8 years, has been on performance management and feels like she's not that good at her job. I would say that she's very kind and steady which makes her good with children, but she can be very 'flat' in how she communicates (this is something that was picked up on and she was asked to try to be more animated), she doesn't think on her feet very well and often needs guidance in what for most people are 'common sense' situations.
- in conversation, she seems to process quite slowly and doesn't give a lot of non-verbal feedback.
- She is quite childlike in how she thinks and processes things. I don't mean that as a criticism, but she seems to seek advice and reassurance about things that for me, are quite obvious. She can be really naive and I worry about her particularly in her relationships with men as she's been taken advantage of quite badly but doesn't seem to have gained much if any insight into this.
- she goes to the cinema several times a week, on her own or with her friend from work - not a bad thing or even specifically an autism thing but quite unusual so I thought worth mentioning.
- she doesn't appear to really understand other people's situations or perspectives intuitively. Sometimes this can make her seem rude or inconsiderate. She doesn't have a bad bone in her body and as time has gone by I've learned to understand this and deal with it by being quite clear and explicit with my boundaries but in the past I found it stressful and had to keep my distance somewhat. We'd spend basically all our time together at university and I think she's found it hard to adjust to me and her other friends 'moving on' with our lives, in a sense. I've realised she's not being pushy but I used to feel pressurised by the constant asking to meet up when I have a young child and live a couple of hours away.
- she's very passive and in certain ways quite easily led. When she talks to me and asks advice it's often more like parent-child than friend-friend. She doesn't seem to know what she wants and it feels like she's kind of drifting along and feels anxious about not achieving the milestones of adult life but she seems to feel comfortable in some ways with where she is. And as I've mentioned, she's had men take advantage of her. She seems to go for a very specific type and never deviates from that despite it never ending well. NB I just want to say I'm not judging her on the milestone stuff but I think she's struggling with it while not actually making changes.
- she doesn't look after herself that well in that she's become very obese. She hasn't learned to drive, she doesn't cook and she has a cleaner help with her flat. Fortunately she's in a good financial situation due to some family money so that has protected her I think but again, it's the lack of venturing out of her comfort zone.
- she's a very loyal and honest person, unusually so I would say.
She has so many lovely qualities but I know she feels like her life isn't turning out the way she thought, or fulfilling her early potential as it were and I really worry as she's been so depressed recently and seems to have got involved with another very unsuitable guy who is likely gay.
Does any of this sound like autism? I've always thought it was to do with her bipolar and all the medication she has to take blunting things. But I'm really wondering if it's worth suggesting this to her as an avenue to look at.
Thanks so much if you've read all this!
It’s difficult to diagnose over the internet!!
A lot of it does sound like ASD, yes. It is sadly often the case that women with ASD can be taken advantage of in relationships. Loyalty and honesty are positive traits of ASD, so often books/the internet focuses on the difficult stuff. It is also a “thing” that women with ASD are less emotionally mature than other women. They may score highly on the IQ scale, and she’s clearly done well academically, but so-called emotional IQ may be lower. I’m guessing that she did well at school and university because she knew what was expected of her, and she had staff telling her what to do. Out in the “real world” there is nobody to say “ok, do this, by this deadline” etc. It can be confusing for those with ASD (I should know, I have it!!) when you’re suddenly ok your own after so many years of being told what to do. I know many people dislike being told what to do, but for those with ASD it brings a certain security. You then google things like “how do I do xyz” and there are lots of different ways to do it, that can be even more confusing!
You sound like a lovely friend, to be so concerned. Ok, that’s odd phrasing; it’s great that you care about her!
Have you ever thought about talking to her? Don’t bring up ASD, just maybe say something like “I notice you seem to be struggling a bit, I know you feel like you’re not achieving your potential” or something similar. Something fairly neutral but that shows you care. Obviously I don’t know her, but she may well find it difficult to ask for help (I often do) and/or may find it difficult to actually admit she’s finding life tricky.
I think misdiagnosis of ASD in women as bipolar is a recognised thing.
I would raise it. If you can find an article to open the conversation it would be helpful.
toffee that does resonate in that she seems to feel very uncertain and wanting advice and direction but not necessarily able to act on that advice. I'm not sure how to approach the topic with her. She was diagnosed as bipolar as a teenager and has had a lot of difficult periods with that. I'm not sure how open to the suggestion she might be. I'm worried about hurting her feelings or sending her off on a confusing/ destabilising route as she is so vulnerable and doesn't appear very certain of anything at the moment.
She certainly ticks a lot of the boxes, from what you’ve described, although the flat affect could be explained by the BPD meds.
Does she feel that the BPD diagnosis fits, or has she ever expressed doubts about it? I agree with the pp who said that it’s not uncommon for autistic women to be wrongly diagnosed with other conditions, including BPD, before their autism diagnosis.
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