Realizing a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as an adult

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2016 Aug;25(4):346-54. doi: 10.1111/inm.12200. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder are not diagnosed until adulthood, yet little is known about their experiences. This descriptive phenomenological study aimed to explore the experience of realizing a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in adulthood. A purposive sample of 77 adults was asked to describe their experiences of realizing a diagnosis as adults via an open-ended online survey. Data were analysed using Colaizzi's method and six themes were derived: feeling different from others, riding an emotional rollercoaster, striving to accept themselves, strategizing to improve their lives, maintaining normalcy, and wandering into the future. Nurses must realize the importance of screening for depression following a new diagnosis. Barriers to reaching a formal diagnosis should also be evaluated.

Keywords: Asperger's syndrome; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Diagnosis; Mental health; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult