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Common signs of autism in adults include:

  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • getting anxious about social situations, and having difficulties understanding relationships
  • finding it hard to make friends and develop relationships
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • finding it hard to say how you feel
  • taking things literally - for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases such as "break a leg"
  • preferring to do things in a set way or order and getting anxious when this is interrupted
  • not understanding your emotions

Other signs related to autism

You may also have other experiences which might be related to autism, such as:

  • not understanding social "rules", such as not talking over people
  • finding conversation very difficult - you may not know how to start or finish a conversation
  • finding it hard to maintain eye contact
  • noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that other people do not
  • having an intense interest in certain subjects or activities
  • planning things carefully before doing them and preferring predictability
  • having difficulties completing tasks and assignments
  • having difficulties getting and keeping a job

Autism in women

Autism can sometimes be different in women and men.

Autistic women appear to be more social. But they may struggle with maintaining social contact and developing relationships.

Autistic women may:

  • have learned to hide signs of autism to ‘fit in’ by copying people who don’t have autism - this is called 'camouflaging' or 'masking'
  • hide their feelings
  • appear to cope well with social situations

This means it can be harder to tell that you're autistic if you're a woman.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 30 May 2023
Next review due: 30 May 2026