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Adult Diagnosis

Autistic Adult Diagnosis

An increasing number of adults are now seeking Autism assessments. We receive many requests about accessing an adult diagnosis, often from people who recognise autistic traits in their children or after completing an online self-assessment or test.

There is no current public pathway to an adult Autism assessment, but it is still possible to receive one through private practice. In this section, you will find answers to some of the key queries about adult diagnosis.

Why should I get an Autism diagnosis as an adult?

Many Autistic adults, especially women, can be misdiagnosed with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. As a result, the prescribed medications and therapies are usually ineffective, which will lead to further feelings of frustration and poor self-worth. Undiagnosed Autistic adults may have spent time in a CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) unit due to these misdiagnoses.

In some cases, undiagnosed Autistic adults may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping strategy. Some people may only notice their autistic traits after entering a rehabilitation programme.

Although Autism is not a mental illness, a poor understanding of Autistic traits and an uninformed approach to treatment can cause significant distress to an Autistic adult’s well-being. With this in mind, an adult Autism diagnosis often comes as a relief.

Aoife Dooley was diagnosed at the age of 27.

“It’s like you’re constantly looking for an answer you don’t know the question to…When you get a diagnosis as an adult it’s bizarre because everything and nothing changes at the same time. You’re still you, but now you have the tools to understand who you are and how you work.”

How do I find a diagnosis?

Unfortunately, there are no public assessment teams dedicated to adult Autism diagnosis in Ireland.

Most adults who think they might be Autistic can only get an assessment privately. Most private psychologists in Ireland do not require a GP referral to access a psychological assessment for Autism. You can self-refer by contacting them directly. We advise that you undertake an assessment with a professional familiar with Autism in adults and who works in a respectful, neurodiversity affirmative way (i.e. that Autism is not seen as a problem to be fixed but a naturally occurring difference to be understood and celebrated).

It is advisable to talk to your GP first, and many private professionals require a GP referral. While your GP may only refer you to a private psychologist or psychiatrist, it is essential that they understand you and can see the demand for Autism assessments in Ireland and advocate for them appropriately. You will need to provide your GP with a precise list of why you think you might be Autistic, as they may still hold outdated ideas about Autism.

It’s important to remember that an Autism assessment for an adult is an exhaustive process to identify your neurotype, not a test you can pass or fail. Even if you aren’t recognised as Autistic, you will likely find answers during this process, whether it is a different neurodivergent condition such as ADHD or an anxiety condition with symptoms which resemble Autistic traits.

How can a diagnosis help me?

Some Autistic people choose to self-identify and don’t see the need to access an official diagnosis. This is valid and widely accepted within the Autistic community (particularly given how difficult it is to access a public assessment).

Some other people would like the opportunity to talk it all through with a professional and help get some clarity and understanding around themselves and their life experiences.

Going through the assessment process with the right psychologist can be very helpful and some people find it therapeutic. A significant benefit to accessing an official diagnosis is that it can help you access proper support and reasonable accommodations in college, the workplace, or in accessing disability benefits.

How could I reach adulthood without realising I’m Autistic?

Due to financial factors, long waiting lists, misdiagnosis or even outdated ideas relating to gender, there are large numbers of Autistic adults who never received a formal diagnosis. Without a full understanding of themselves, these individuals may have grown up with anxiety due to sensory overload or the stress of ‘masking.’

Some Autistic adults may have spent time in psychiatric units when Autistic burnout is mistaken for a nervous breakdown. This can lead to them being misdiagnosed with a personality disorder or even given incorrect medication. These combined issues also mean difficulty entering and keeping long-term employment. Because there is no public route for pursuing an adult diagnosis, a private diagnosis may be too expensive to access.

How does the Autism assessment process work for an adult?

An adult Autism diagnosis must be made by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. The assessment can vary between professionals, but there are some things that you can expect.

All assessments will include in-depth interviews and information gathering about your life and how you view the world. You will likely meet with the psychologist/psychiatrist (online or in person) for one or more interviews to discuss your experiences. Meetings may involve discussing your life, background, and why you think you might be Autistic. You will discuss information from your past that you believe is relevant and describe how you experience the world.

Sometimes adults seeking a diagnosis don’t show undeniable Autistic traits, as they may have learned to ‘mask’ or camouflage them over the years. A good psychologist or psychiatrist with an up-to-date understanding of Autism and a neurodiversity affirmative approach will be able to understand the nuances of the Autistic experience.

Some professionals may request that a parent or other family member be involved in your assessment (by meeting with them or providing additional information). But this is not always required, and many will put your voice at the centre of the assessment. If you do not wish for a family member to be involved, you can look for a professional who does not require this.

Getting an assessment as an adult should be a collaborative and respectful process between you and the professional. While the psychologist/psychiatrist will be using the DSM-V diagnosis criteria in the background, it should look like two adults working together to see if Autism is the right fit for your experiences. If you do not feel that this is the process you will experience with a particular professional, you may need to look around for a different one.

Providers of adult Autism diagnosis

Some private psychologists and psychiatrists provide once-off consultation sessions where you can meet with them to discuss your thoughts about Autism, ask questions, and explore whether a full Autism assessment is right for you.

Below is a list of private practitioners for psychologists who provide adult Autism diagnosis. Please note that AsIAm does not endorse any one diagnostic service over another and this list is for signposting purposes only.

Arduna Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre
54 Clontarf Road,
Dublin 3
T: +353 (01) 8332733

The Adult Autism Practice
Irish practice specialising in a neurodiversity-affirmative approach to adult Autism assessment. For ease of accessibility, all contact is online. Comprehensive details, including cost, waiting time and booking, can be found here:

Catherine O’Kelly
Irish practice specialising in adult Autism assessments.

Centric Health
Nationwide provider of mental health services including child and adult Autism assessments, can be found here:
T: +353 (01) 6111719

Dr Julian Dooley  
089 602 4857