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Female Aspergers

November 26, 2010

NOTE:  I no longer maintain this blog, or even visit it much. The entire blog has been duplicated and moved to The Aspie Parent at Polymath Solution. Please post any comments there, on the Female Aspergers page. I came upon this list of traits of women/girls with Asperger’s Syndrome in an unexpected place, but from my personal knowledge and experience, it seems very accurate. The original appears, in a barely readable form, on help4aspergers, a website maintained by author Rudy Simone. Rudy, if you are reading this, I hope you don’t mind me reprinting the lists here.

List of Female Asperger Syndrome (AS) Traits:

Appearance / Personal Habits:

  • Dresses comfortably due to sensory issues & practicality.
  • Will not spend much time on grooming and hair. Hairstyles usually have to be ‘wash and wear’. Can be quite happy not grooming at all at times.
  • Eccentric personality; may be reflected in appearance.
  • Is youthful for her age, in looks, dress, behavior and tastes.
  • Usually a little more expressive in face and gesture than male counterparts.
  • May have many androgynous traits despite an outwardly feminine appearance. Thinks of herself as half-male / half-female.
  • May not have a strong sense of identity and can be very chameleon-like, especially before diagnosis.
  • Enjoys reading and films as a retreat, often scifi, fantasy, children’s, can have favorites which are a refuge.
  • Uses control as a stress management technique: rules, discipline, rigid in certain habits, which will contradict her seeming unconventionality.
  • Usually happiest at home or in other controlled environments.

Intellectual / Giftedness / Education / Vocation:

  • May have been diagnosed as autistic or Asperger’s when young, or may have been thought of as gifted, shy, sensitive, etc. May also have had obvious or severe learning deficits.
  • Often musical, artistic.
  • May have a savant skill or strong talent.
  • May have a strong interest in computers, games, science, graphic design, inventing, things of a technological and visual nature. More verbal thinkers may gravitate to writing, languages, cultural studies, psychology.
  • May be a self-taught reader, been hyperlexic as a child, and will possess a wide variety of other self-taught skills as well.
  • May be highly educated but will have had to struggle with social aspects of college. May have one or many partial degrees.
  • Can be very passionate about a course of study or job, and then change direction or go completely cold on it very quickly.
  • Will often have trouble holding onto a job and may find employment daunting.
  • Highly intelligent, yet sometimes can be slow to comprehend due to sensory and cognitive processing issues.
  • Will not do well with verbal instruction — needs to write down or draw diagram.
  • Will have obsessions but they are not as unusual as her male counterpart’s (less likely to be a ‘train-spotter’).

Emotional / Physical:

  • Emotionally immature and emotionally sensitive.
  • Anxiety and fear are predominant emotions.
  • More open to talking about feelings and emotional issues than males with AS.
  • Strong sensory issues — sounds, sights, smells, touch, and prone to overload. (Less likely to have taste / food texture issues as males.)
  • Moody and prone to bouts of depression. May have been diagnosed as bi-polar or manic depressive (common comorbids of autism / AS) while the AS diagnosis was missed.
  • Probably given several different prescriptions to treat symptoms. Will be very sensitive to medications and anything else she puts in her body so may have had adverse reactions.
  • 9 out of 10 have mild to severe gastro-intestinal difficulties — eg, ulcers, acid reflux, IBS, etc.
  • Stims to soothe when sad or agitated: rocking, face-rubbing, humming, finger flicking, leg bouncing, finger or foot-tapping, etc.
  • Similarly physical when happy: hand flapping, clapping, singing, jumping, running around, dancing, bouncing.
  • Prone to temper or crying meltdowns, even in public, sometimes over seemingly small things due to sensory or emotional overload.
  • Hates injustice and hates to be misunderstood; this can incite anger and rage.
  • Prone to mutism when stressed or upset, esp. after a meltdown. Less likely to stutter than male counterparts but may have a raspy voice, monotone at times, when stressed or sad.

Social / Relationships:

  • Words and actions are often misunderstood by others.
  • Perceived to be cold-natured and self-centered; unfriendly.
  • Is very outspoken at times, may get very fired up when talking about passions / obsessive interests.
  • Can be very shy or mute.
  • Like her male counterpart, will shut down in social situations once overloaded, but is generally better at socializing in small doses. May even give the appearance of skilled, but it is a ‘performance’.
  • Doesn’t go out much. Will prefer to go out with partner only or children if she has them.
  • Will not have many girlfriends and will not do ‘girly’ things like shopping with them or have get-togethers to ‘hang out’.
  • Will have a close friend or friends in school, but not once adulthood is reached.
  • May or may not want to have a relationship. If she is in a relationship, she probably takes it very seriously, but she may choose to remain celibate or alone.
  • Due to sensory issues, will either really enjoy sex or strongly dislike it.
  • If she likes a male, she can be extremely, noticeably awkward in her attempts to let him know, eg she may stare when she sees him or call him repeatedly. This is because she fixates and doesn’t understand societal gender roles. This will change with maturity.
  • Often prefers the company of animals but not always due to sensory issues.

Summary of Some Main Female / Male AS Differences:

  • Usually a little more expressive in face and gesture than male counterparts.
  • Better at mirroring than males and so may mirror many different types of personalities. Hence females may not have a strong sense of identity, and can be very chameleon-like, especially before diagnosis.
  • Will have obsessions but they are not as abstruse or unusual as her male counterpart’s and tend to be more practical (eg, less likely to be a ‘trainspotter’).
  • More open to talking about feelings and emotional issues than males with AS.
  • Less likely to receive early, correct diagnosis because the criteria is based on male behaviors / traits. (Hans Asperger studied males only.) More likely to be diagnosed as bi-polar or manic-depressive (common co-morbids of autism / AS).
  • Physical gestures / behaviors when happy more expressive than males: hand flapping, clapping, singing, jumping up and down, running around, dancing, bouncing — this pertains to adult women as well as girls.
  • Adult females are prone to both temper and crying meltdowns, even in public, sometimes over seemingly small things due to sensory or emotional overload. Hunger / food issues seem to be a common trigger. Adult males [with AS] not prone to crying.
  • Tends to receive less tolerance and more expectation from others, because she appears more adept.
  • Hate injustice and hates to be misunderstood; this can incite anger and rage meltdowns.
  • Less likely to stutter than male counterparts when stressed or upset; both may have raspy, choked or monotone voice or suffer mutism.
  • Females are generally better at socializing in small doses. May even give the appearance of skilled, but it is a ‘performance’. Like her male counterpart, will shut down in social situations once overloaded.
  • More likely to keep pets for emotional support but not always due to sensory issues.

NOTE:  I no longer maintain this blog, or even visit it much. The entire blog has been duplicated and moved to The Aspie Parent at Polymath Solution. Please post any comments there, on the Female Aspergers page. Comments here are closed, but I do want to hear from you!

  1. Susan Blumberg permalink
    November 28, 2010 12:56 am

    sorry, Liz, this does not match my understanding of females with Asperger’s and besides is way too vague – “May or may not want a relationship”? really? doesn’t that describe the entire population of humans? I see way too many vague statements that don’t really discriminate people with the disorder from people without.

    • August 25, 2012 2:31 am

      Females with AS are all different, but this is very spot on in my understanding. I’m a 14 year old with AS whose a female and I can relate a lot. Its a different view of how people think upon us as then it really is in our eyes. Unless you are alike, you really can never say you can understand/relate until you live through our AS eyes. We have a hard time just trying to figure ourselves out without having to have parents & teachers try to tell us so.

      I would like to know, is there any AS girls who are very close to male besties of theirs? Who get ‘mothered’ by their male friends? looked after?

  2. Ellen permalink
    December 27, 2010 12:34 am

    I find it to be spot on for me.

  3. January 13, 2011 7:41 pm

    Like any list, there will be some generalities that don’t apply to all female Aspies because ours is a spectrum condition. Overall I found that most of the specific characteristics fit me to a ‘T’.

  4. January 13, 2011 9:50 pm

    I’m intrigued by the mention of sensitivity to medications. Does anyone know why this is? I’m not on the spectrum, but a bunch of it fits me, and THAT one jumps out, as I have a growing list of medications I warn doctors about. Not allergic reactions, I just seem to have side effects to a lot of stuff. I would love to know what makes that a trait of AS, what the medical reason might be.

    • Eidroj permalink
      March 27, 2012 3:55 pm

      yeah, as I get sleepy from caffeinated paracetamol. could that be a side effect thing?

  5. January 9, 2012 9:25 pm

    Oh my. I’m a 23 year old female just looking into Asperger’s after reading an article about John Robison’s son in the NYTimes, and this list describes me almost completely.

    How fascinating.

  6. My Perspective permalink
    March 4, 2012 7:48 pm

    I see a lot of these traits within myself. My words and actions are often misunderstood by others, usually in a negative way. People tend to get angry with me because they don’t understand me. I’ve made innocent comments with no intention of hurting anyone but some people are offended nevertheless. I can’t even be playful with most people because it will be taken the wrong way. I’ve decided that I just don’t care anymore.

    I find employment daunting and I haven’t been able to find a decent job in a very long time…I also have a pretty severe learning disability.

    I’m perceived as weird by lots of people. I believe this is due to my shyness and difficulty with eye contact. Some people think I stare at them, but this isn’t true. I haven’t had a pet since childhood, although I would like one. But my husband is allergic. I’m not fond of most dogs, I prefer cats. However, I love certain breeds of dogs as long as they are sweet and don’t bite.

    I hate to socialize. Sometimes I don’t mind having conversations, but it seems to be too much work with little reward. I often feel like people are judging me. I prefer my own company although I’m lonely most of the time. I’ve never understood the concept of “small talk”.

    I have suffered with severe depression most of my life.

    I only have meltdowns when I become overwhelmed by stress or depression. This also happens when I feel that I’m being disrespected or treated unfairly.

    I’ve developed IBS and acid reflux these last few years, especially around the time of my menstrual periods.

    I have no female friends except my mother. I would love to have girlfriends but it can be difficult to find other women who share my interests and are actually nice people.

    I love shopping and other “girly” stuff, but I usually do these activities by myself.

    I hate to be misunderstood and this often results in anger. I hate injustice of any kind.

    I’m very artistic…I only wish I had more of an outlet for my creativity.

    I have many passions, some of which are considered “weird”. I’ve learned to keep my interests to myself because of some judgmental reactions.

    I look very young for my age. I’ve also been told that I seem like a little girl at times.

    I don’t have a strong sense of identity at all. I’m biracial (black and white), but my appearance confuses people. I guess you can say I’m a chameleon. But I’ve never been a follower.

    I love reading books and watching movies…much better than socializing with people.

    I care very much about the way I look. I have very curly hair that requires lots of attention. I don’t wear a lot of makeup but I do like to wear mascara, lip gloss, and jewelry. I love beautiful clothes and nice shoes.

    I wonder how many other female Aspies have issues with being misunderstood?

  7. Nadine permalink
    March 9, 2012 9:47 pm

    Incredibly accurate, I have the condition and couldn’t have put it better myself.

  8. thrifty82 permalink
    August 8, 2012 10:43 am

    How do you go about being diagnosed? I think this could explain a lot in my life. I do not have a doctor. I have not been to a doctor since I was a teen (I am 29 now). I have always thought I had severe depression and social anxiety. Any suggestions/thoughts?

  9. Alison Palmer permalink
    August 26, 2012 11:58 am

    Thank you so much for this article, it accurarely describes me in virtually every way, including the sensitivity to medication. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome a couple of months ago, at the age of 44, and it’s good to see that I’m not a complete one off weirdo.

  10. Mary permalink
    September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

    thats me deffinitly

  11. Young EC permalink
    November 7, 2012 9:03 am

    Hi, I am a 33 year old female, undiagnosed. I was at an art festival this past weekened and I got really intrigued by African instrments as I already play piano, keyboard, and flute (all self-taught) and came back two days in a row to practice about 4-5 hours a day on them because the shop owner was very friendly (we were fast “friends” and I helped increase sales by playing). The intensity and facility with which I played these instruments, forgetting the world around me, must have caught attention. A shop owner next door asked me if I had Asperger Syndrome. At first, I must admit I was very upset. My reaction was, “No! I am just very interested in these instruments!!” “Asperger syndrome, are you serious?” Then, due to my ruminating and inquisitive nature, I read up on it.

    You could call it fixation about this subject more than a curiosity as in the past now that a self-diagnosis was at stake. I had gone through most of the relevant diagnoses in the DSM-IV as a teenager and then all throughout my twenties, reading up on any socially-related disorders to my dismay, I did not fit into any. I was miserable: I could not find many to connect with and truly feel understood. Most of my interactions revolved around being misunderstood and others making actual character judgments about me, which hurt me deeply because I am generally a very kind, good person with a huge tendency to be philosophical. I fixate negative social interactions and philosophically ruminate about my lack of belonging in the world. As you can see, it can and has led to severe depression in my teenage years. Only in adulthood because I had actively sought literature, books, and help on this subject…have I come to a point in somehow diffusing that incredible urge to fall into existential depression.

    So I read every entry on Asperger Sydrome via Google search for 5+ pages of results, took a test at this link posted below (which was featured on a news clip on youtube of a woman who help start her husband’s diagnosis), and concluded that I have very similar traits to Asperger and that I must fall on some spectrum, albeit mild.

    I have always struggled painfully (emotionally, psychologically) with social interaction. I got bullied a lot when I was a child (being a very deep, philosophical child) and all throughout middle school. I never appreciated peers and always gravitated to adults as “friends” and many preferences such as this has never changed since as long as my childhood memory holds. I have very powerful and vivid memories of childhood, such as the ostracizing outcomes of economic and social stratification and other painful experiences emotionally, such as seeing other children suffer in mental illness.

    I have rarely felt deep emotions while in relationships. No surprise that I could not decipher the full intentions of others I dated and have led to some hurts. I have been overly cautious because I realized this as a teenager that I was unable to read people very well, so I refused to date until I was almost 22 years old. Even still, this ability is not about age and maturity. This ‘disability’ should I call it, is due to an actual inability to read people. On a side note, I wonder if I could be understood by an Aspie in that sincerity is the bonding bridge… The sincerity trait is one that is pretty much guaranteed in the Aspie. This trait is one that I have always looked for in others but it is not common at all in the general population.

    I also have professed love of ideas more than people all throughout my teen years and I meant it. I love a few subject matters in the social sciences, psychology, and philosophy and not much else. I have a general love of knowledge but success in graduate school I realize will only work in social sciences or within the spheres of one’s natural talents or ones that do not require cut-throat competition, trumpeting of one’s ego, or confronting people frequently. It made me so miserable that people were not sincere or that sincerity had no place or worth. I was despondent, anxious, severely unhappy that some people could act unfairly, cruelly, or despicably, yet be regarded highly by those in the circle. I could not wrap my mind around that and I felt defenseless and vulnerable that my very core traits were attacked and it made me feel inadequate and I knew all this was very cruel. I had to give it up because they were injuring my very inner being, my soul… I am still working on “forgiving” them (all those who intentionally injured me emotionally, psychologically).

    I entered the health profession so that I could regularly exercise empathy (which was a great idea–it did help me fan out and grow in this capacity after years of studying human psychology). This decision had its ups and downs. I spend a lot of time working on elements that others instinctually have, but it did get me to be “passable” socially. No one can detect anything is wrong because I am friendly, outgoing, talkative with others I feel comfortable around. An act of self-determination has allowed me to stretch social boundaries, with good street smarts to talk to people I don’t know to good results.

    I have always been androgynous, although feminine in appearance. Physically, I have good muscle tone, have the lean muscles of a young male, have practised ambidextrosity, and tend not to be frail. Some of the physical waif-like stereotypes of Aspies tend to be generalizations that may not fit everyone. The stereotypes correlate with high sensory stimulation sensitivity like Highly Sensitive People (HSP) share that will result in those hating clothing tags, inability to tolerate wool, intolerance to noise, and other common occurrences of this nature.

    I have IQ in the gifted range and surely, as literature out there indicates that people of high intelligence will not mesh very well with the general population, it is no surprise that I already can not feel understood by others easily… or I may also have coexisting overlap in the autism spectrum? I know I need a Psychologist to determine a diagnosis with a valid test.

  12. Young EC permalink
    November 7, 2012 9:08 am


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