Unsuspected Camouflage

By: Carol Smith - 

I was socially confused all the time when I was younger, never knowing how to respond, unintentionally hurting people’s feelings, and being told I was different. I tried to mask my cluelessness by acting like other kids. By the time I was 13, at the end of the school day, I’d be physically and emotionally drained.

In high school I had a few friends. But the strain of having to be conscious of my behavior all the time made socializing very unpleasant. In college, I isolated myself, withdrawing from everyone. After I graduated, I didn’t do anything outside of work.

Psychologically I went downhill, and each passing year felt worse and worse. The alienation, the anxiety, the eventual depression.

By 2012, the time had come where applying for social security disability was no longer something I could avoid. Though it took 2 years, I was eventually granted disability. And with it, came health insurance/medicare, and access to real counselors I hadn’t had the opportunity to see for years. Finally getting the chance to figure out what I had been dealing with my whole life, the answer came after finding something online that used the word chameleon.

I had “female aspergers”. Although once I was officially diagnosed, it was for autism level one because aspergers is no longer recognized as a medical term (...In my opinion, the consolidating of so many different conditions into the autism spectrum can muddy the waters and make it even harder for women and girls to get proper diagnosis and help...also to specify them as “high functioning” I think creates a comparison that involves a hurtful term).

Historical data shows boys outrank girls by a huge margin for aspergers. However, the male biased diagnostic criteria does not include traits specific usually to just females. This is what leads to so many girls and women being overlooked and flying under the radar. Cultural role expectations contribute as well.

After I found out I had aspergers, I felt more comfortable being myself. I started going to aspergers support and social groups, and was fortunate to meet friends I enjoyed spending time with.

From a website by Tania Marshall (https://www.google.com/amp/s/taniaannmarshall.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/flying-under-the-radar-girls-and-women-with-aspergers-syndrome-2/amp/)

“ • Girls use social imitation and mimicking by observing other children and copying them, leading to masking the symptoms of Asperger syndrome (Attwood, 2007). Girls learn to be actresses in social situations. This camouflaging of social confusion can delay a diagnosis by up to 30 years.

• Dale Yaull-Smith (2008) discusses the ‘social exhaustion’ that many females experience, from the enormous energy it takes pretending to fit in.”

Entering “female aspergers” into a search engine will bring up a lot of useful information to anyone interested, better than I could explain myself. But one sometimes common interest for those with female aspergers is Buddhism. Though I am not religious, and consider myself a secular Buddhist, it has been the most helpful tool in trying to untangle the difficulties a life on the spectrum can present.

It’s my hope others with the female aspergers profile can at least eventually gain some insight into their condition and find some comfort from finally knowing, as these revelations seem to take place later in life, having caused years of suffering and unanswered questions.

(By using the word female, I don’t mean to only refer to females in the traditional sense, but however any individual identifies)


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