Autism in adults: Signs, symptoms, and diagnosis

Everything you need to know about autism in adults

The symptoms of autism in adults can differ from those in children, and many adults have learned to live with their symptoms over the years.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. In most cases, people receive an autism diagnosis in childhood, usually after the age of 4 years.

However, some adults live with undiagnosed ASD. Even people with more severe symptoms may not have received the correct diagnosis.

There are some similarities between ASD and certain other disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Receiving an ASD diagnosis later in life can be helpful for many reasons, but particularly because it can provide people with better access to services and support. Read on to learn more about autism in adults.

Share on Pinterest An autistic adult may get better access to services and support if they receive a diagnosis.

Autistic people typically find aspects of communication and social interaction challenging. They may have difficulty relating to other people and understanding the emotions of others.

Autistic people may also have inflexible thought patterns and behavior, and they often carry out repetitive actions.

Adults with mild symptoms of ASD may not get a diagnosis until later in life, if ever.

Common signs and symptoms of ASD in adults can include:

  • clumsiness
  • difficulty making conversation
  • difficulty making or maintaining close friendships
  • discomfort during eye contact
  • challenges with regulating emotions
  • extreme interest in one particular topic, such as a specific period of history
  • frequent monologues on the same subject or subjects
  • hypersensitivity to sounds or smells that do not seem to bother others
  • involuntary noises, such as repetitive throat clearing
  • issues understanding sarcasm or idioms
  • lack of inflection when speaking
  • only having an interest in a few activities
  • preference for solitary activities
  • problems reading the emotions of others
  • trouble understanding facial expressions and body language
  • reliance on daily routines and difficulty dealing with changes to routine
  • repetitive behaviors
  • social anxiety
  • superior abilities in mathematics and related disciplines, in some cases
  • the need to arrange items in a specific order

Autistic people will not usually have all of the above signs and symptoms, and they may experience others that are not on the list. Signs and symptoms vary from person to person.

Also, the symptoms can differ between men and women.

Autistic women may be quieter and appear to cope better with social situations than autistic men. As a result, it can be more challenging to diagnose ASD in women.

According to some research, autistic people may have higher rates of co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or depression, than those in the general population.

Seeking an autism diagnosis as an adult can be challenging for several reasons:

  • Firstly, people who did not receive a diagnosis in their younger years may have milder symptoms, which can be more difficult for a doctor to recognize.
  • Secondly, if people have been living with ASD for some time, they may be better at disguising or managing the signs and symptoms.
  • Thirdly, there is currently no established method of diagnosing ASD in adults, although this is likely to change in the future.

Individuals may wish to begin with a self-assessment test for adults. While these tests cannot confirm a diagnosis, they are a good starting point and provide material to discuss with a healthcare professional.

Alternatively, those who suspect that they or their loved one has ASD can speak directly to a doctor. A doctor will try to determine whether ASD may be present by:

  • enquiring about symptoms, both current and during childhood
  • observing and interacting with the person
  • speaking to loved ones (with permission)
  • checking for other physical or mental health conditions that may be causing symptoms

If no underlying physical condition appears to be responsible for the symptoms, the doctor may then refer the person to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to make a diagnosis.

If symptoms are not present in childhood but begin in adolescence or adulthood, this may indicate a cognitive or mental health condition other than ASD.

Currently, it is challenging to find a specialist who can diagnose and treat ASD in adults. A good starting point is to contact a local autism center, such as an Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network location.

Others may find it helpful to speak to a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist who has experience and is willing to see adult clients.

Benefits of diagnosis

While getting a diagnosis of ASD in adulthood can be tricky, it offers several advantages.

  • The diagnosis may provide relief and an explanation for the challenges that an individual has experienced throughout their life.
  • It may give family members, friends, and colleagues a better understanding of living with ASD.
  • It may open up access to useful services and benefits, including in the workplace or at university.
  • It may replace an incorrect diagnosis, such as ADHD.

On the other hand, not every adult with undiagnosed ASD may want or need a diagnosis. It is important to respect the needs and wishes of the individual.

How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs

The best way to find out if you’re dealing with bed bugs is by finding a couple of the 5 signs they always leave behind. We’ll show you exactly what to look for and where to look.

Table of Contents

Bed Bug Symptoms

5 Reliable Bed Bug Symptoms

1. Bites
Bites are the first symptom most people notice, but they aren’t enough to be 100% sure that bed bugs are the culprit. Bed bug bites typically show up as itchy red bumps in rows of three or more.

2. Stains
Bed bugs leave stains wherever they go. Their stains are made of fecal matter and undigested blood. They’re gross but useful for identification as these stains are unique to bed bugs.

3. Eggs
A single bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs in its lifetime. Their eggs look like small grains of rice. Bed bugs don’t bother cleaning up hatched eggs, which gives us another reliable sign to look out for.

4. Molts
Bed bugs must shed several times as they mature. Their left behind molts, husks, shells, or whatever you want to call them are the next best evidence after a live bug.

5. Live Bugs
A live bug is the most definitive proof you can find. They are also the hardest to find. Luckily, there are tools that make the hunt easier.

Try to find at least two signs before starting treatment. This ensures that you won’t end up wasting time and money on the wrong pest.

See also:  How Do I Use Essential Oils Safely, doTERRA Essential Oils

We also have a printable on the 5 symptoms as part of our comprehensive ebook for convenient reference.

Do Bed Bugs Smell?

Some would argue that we should include smell on the list of symptoms. Bed bugs do have a smell – just not enough of one for us to notice in small amounts.

It is important to catch infestations early on when they’re much easier to deal with. By the time you can smell bed bugs, your infestation will have already become advanced.

This makes smell an unreliable and mostly useless symptom in early infestations.

The smell can be detected early by bed bug sniffing dogs. Our human noses aren’t as sensitive.

Can Bed Bugs Jump or Fly?

Knowing this is useful as it can help rule out pests you thought might be bed bugs. If your pest jumps or flies, you could be dealing with fleas or mosquitoes, for example.

It’s not unusual for fleas to infest beds. Seeing one jump tells you that you’re at least not dealing with bed bugs.

Bed Bug Bites

Your sensitivity to bed bug bites determines whether you will be able to pick up on that most obvious symptom.

According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bites are the symptom most people first report.

Welts and red rash on legs discovered. Bed bug was later found killed with blood inside. Source: ©2011 Magalie L’Abbé

Habits and Bite Patterns Associated With Bed Bugs

  • Bites appearing in lines of two or more
  • Bites appearing after periods of rest (naps, sleep, reclining, etc)
  • Bites appearing every 3 days to 5 days early in an infestation
  • Bites appearing on skin left exposed during sleep
  • Bites typically found on areas with less hair
  • Symptoms vary but are generally described as:
    • flat or slightly raised red welts, bumps, or rashes
    • A deep persistent itch, worse than mosquito bites

For some people, it takes several hours or even days before signs of bites start to show. Others do not react to bites at all, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

A reactive person might wake up with a row of bites one day and begin treating their bed bug problem right away. Someone that does not react won’t notice until the infestation has become serious.

We have entire pages on bed bug bite symptoms and pictures of bed bug bites on real people to help.

For more on bites and how to stop them, see the bed bug bites page.

For those dealing with bites now, the how to treat bed bug bites page is here to help you stop the itch.

Bed Bug Stains

They also recommend checking behind headboards, around box springs, and beneath night stands.

Adult and baby bed bugs, molted skins, white clear eggs, and feces under upholstered chair. Source: ©2007 Louento.pix

Bed bugs sometimes get squished while biting during your mid-sleep itching, turning, and swatting.

Smears or spots of blood on bedding can show you where that may have happened.

Bed Bug Eggs

Bed Bug Egg Facts

  • Each female b ed bug can lay one to five eggs every day.
  • A female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in its lifetime.
  • It takes about a week for a single egg to hatch.
  • Bed bug eggs are off-white in color and look like small grains of rice.

Headboard with bed bug adults, nymphs, eggs, waste. Source: ©2008 Louento.pix

Bed bugs aren’t tidy. Eggshells stick around and don’t get cleaned – leaving a convenient sign for you to look for.

Bed bugs prefer to lay their eggs in cracks and on rough surfaces. The cloth inside the seams of your mattress is a favorite spot.

Left Behind Bed Bug Molts

Molts are priceless to professionals and regular folks for identification. They look just like bed bugs and are easy to take a picture of.

You can find more pictures of these remnants to compare your findings with in the picture gallery.

Molts and eggshells will slowly pile up in the same corners and crevices where bed bugs like to live.

How to Find Live Bed Bugs

The most definitive evidence you can find is a live bed bug.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

  • Bed bugs have six legs.
  • Adults have flat bodies about 1 /4 of an inch in length.
  • Their colors vary from red and brown to rust colored.
  • Young bed bugs are tiny with bodies about 1 /16 of an inch in length.
  • Young bed bugs are almost translucent.
  • After feeding, bed bugs, swell up and becomes bright red.
  • They can look like a different insect after feeding. See the image below.
  • Bed bugs cannot fly.
  • Bed bugs try to stay hidden and prefer to bite while you’re asleep.
  • Bed bugs live for about 10 months on average.
  • Bed bugs grow to adulthood in about 21 days.

If you do decide to hunt down a live bug, we recommend bringing clear tape. Once you find a bug, simply sandwich it between two sticky sides.

Knowing what each stage of bed bug growth looks like is helpful. Each stage actually looks very different.

Interceptors are great! They’re cheap, prevent bites, and don’t need any upkeep once installed.

Living in an apartment, condo, or other multi-unit type building? We recommend installing interceptors even if you don’t have a bed bug problem yet.

Bed bugs, if they ever come around, will get trapped in interceptors on their way to bite you in your sleep. Checking for bed bugs becomes as simple as taking a peek in the traps every couple of weeks.

Click any product name or picture to go to the corresponding review:

LightsOut ClimbUp BB Alert SenSci
Bait You You You You, Optional Lure
Trap ABS Pitfall Powdered Pitfall Comfy Harborage Pitfall
Lifespan Forever Forever 1 Infestation Forever
Rating 100 / 100 92 / 100 92 / 100 74 / 100
Relative Cost $$ $ $$ $$ — $$$
Full Review View View View View

Bed Bug Signs Printable

We made this printable as part of an ebook that has everything you need to know in one place.

Print and carry it with you as you search your home for stains and eggs so you don’t have to touch or carry your phone!

Click here for more information on the ebook.

Where To Look For Bed Bug Signs

It’s important to know where to look for all the signs we’ve gone over.

Where Do Bed Bugs Like to Hide?

  • The creases of mattresses
  • Corners, cracks, inside spaces between slats and joints in your bed frame
  • Inside and on box springs
  • Between the creases of bed linens
  • Behind headboards and backboards
  • Nearby any places of rest (Bed, couch, sofa, etc.)
  • Space behind loose wallpaper
  • Gaps where carpet meets wall
  • Corners and joints of desks, dressers, closets, drawers, etc.
  • Inside small spaces between all of the above

You’ll get a feeling for where to search in any room once you know what bed bugs are looking for in a home. They simply don’t want to get caught, but do want to be close to dinner.

Bed bugs are looking for tight spots to squeeze into. Spots that are out of sight but near your favorite places to sleep are ideal.

Recently fed red bed bug adults, baby bed bugs, molted skins, and feces inside a bed headboard detail. Source: ©2008 Louento.pix

Bed bugs will settle in wherever you take extended periods of rest. If you like to nap on the couch or in a recliner, they will find their way there.

We host a gallery of pictures of bed bugs hiding in different places to give you a better idea of what to look for.

Knowing where to look will also help you check for bed bugs while traveling. Travel is one of the most common ways to end up with bed bugs after all.

Can’t find anything in any of the above spots but are still getting bitten? Try a passive bed bug monitor or consider bringing in a professional.

Weird Places Bed Bugs Hide

In their hunt for a safe hiding spot, bed bugs can end up hiding in some surprising places.

Bed bugs do not burrow or penetrate materials when making their homes. They have no problem living on wood, metal, plastic, or cloth though.

Bed Bugs in Electronics?

We get asked a lot whether electronics are safe from infestations.

Unfortunately, bed bugs are happy to live in electronics.

Bed bugs mating with eggs in crevice nearby. Source: OH-BugMan

In an heavy infestation, bed bugs will shack up in your speakers, television, computer, or what have you.

This is why bringing home used electronics can be dangerous just like used furniture.

At the same time, electronics aren’t a bed bug’s first choice because they are difficult to travel over. They prefer homes where they can easily climb – like bed sheets and upholstery.

Bed Bugs In Leather Furniture?

Bed bugs have no problem living in leather furniture. Leather upholstery, like electronics, simply isn’t the bug’s first choice.

Bed bugs inside a shoe fold. Complete with eggs, adults and baby bed bugs. Black spots are blood feces. Source: ©2009 Louento.pix

Leather-covered couches and sofas are often smooth and difficult to climb. But, they are also typically covered in cloth on the underside.

The same is true of vinyl furniture.

If you’ve found bed bugs in your furniture, don’t throw it away yet!

You can treat your furniture many ways. Fumigation, steam treatment, large bed bug heaters, and vacuuming can help manage or even get rid of bed bugs in furniture.

There are heaters of every size for any budget these days.

Click any product name or picture to go to the corresponding review:

ThermalStrike Ranger ZappBug Heater ZappBug Oven 2 PackTite Closet ZappBug Room
Volume 3.6 cubic feet 13.6 cubic feet 25.3 cubic feet 25 cubic feet 286 cubic feet
Heating Method 6-sided Conductive 1 Convective Air Heater 2 Convective Air Heaters 1 Convective Air Heater 4 Convective Air Heaters
Cold Spots None Yes Yes None Yes
Setup Time Under 5 min About 5 min Under 10 min Under 15 min Under 20 min
Rating 96 / 100 90 / 100 92 / 100 60 / 100 96 / 100
Full Review View View View View View

By helping you save expensive furniture, heaters can save you thousands. Bed bug heaters can even treat sensitive belongings that you can’t put in the dryer, steam, or spray with chemicals.

Click any product name or picture to go to the corresponding review:

Amico Steamfast Primo Vapor Clean II
Tip Temperature 200˚F 210˚F 220˚F 240˚F
Pressure 43.5 PSI 44 PSI 58 PSI 65 PSI
Adjustable PSI? No No Yes Yes
Water Capacity 0.8 Cups 1.4 Liters 1.6 Liters 1.7 Liters
Steam Time 5 to 10 min. 40 min. 60 min. Over 60 min.
Attachments 17 17 17 13
Rating 84 / 100 80 / 100 100 / 100 96 / 100
Relative Cost $ $$ $$$ $$$$
Full Review View View View View

Getting rid of your furniture the right way stops neighbors from bringing it back in. Many infestations in multi-unit buildings seem to have no end because of things like this.

Stages of Bed Bug Infestations

Bed bug infestations do not happen overnight.

If you’ve made it this far, you know exactly what to look for.

Bed bugs are a fast multiplying pest. All it takes is a single egg laying female for an infestation to start. Their numbers can explode as each female bug produces 200-500 eggs.

Their ability to hide and work at night lets them slip under the radar for months. Five weeks isn’t that long!

It’s even easier to miss the signs if you aren’t reactive to bites.

You will almost never see a bed bug during the day unless you have an advanced or severe infestation.

Interceptors take away the guessing and are the best way to catch infestations early.

A Single Bed Bug

Even if only one bug is present, that bug has to eat. A bite has to happen. Without feeding, bed bugs can’t mature or produce eggs.

It’s strange, but you could consider yourself lucky if you are highly reactive to bed bug bites.

Imagine you wake up one day with a single of two to three bites in a row. You begin looking around but can’t find any other symptom or sign.

One morning, three to five days later, you find the same bite pattern. This is when you get suspicious – this fits the timing and pattern of normal bed bug feeding habits.

Several rows of three could tell you that you’re dealing with more than one bed bug.

If you haven’t already taken preventative steps, now would be a good time to put encasements and interceptors on your bed. This traps the bug in your encasement, ending your “infestation.”

If you’re interested in more preventive steps, check out the page dedicated to prevention.

Advanced Infestations

You might be able to find a couple bed bugs with some searching.
Bites become more frequent and several bites appear at once. New ones begin to appear every morning. Stains become large smears while molted skins and eggshells pile up until they are easy to find.
They will continue to wait in hiding during the day.

Bugs eventually start to move away from your bed to locations with less of a crowd. At this point it becomes even harder to get rid of them as they dive deeper into your home.

This is why bed bugs are much easier to deal with if diagnosed within the first two months of infestation. You can read more about early detection and prevention here.

Severe Infestations

Bed bugs will branch out to nearby rooms and units once competition around your bed gets heavy.

A group of bed bugs. Lighter shaded ones are younger nymphs. Source: Wikimedia

At this point, bugs will commute to get to your bed. A few may even make attempts to bite during the day while you relax away from your bed.

If nothing is done, bed bugs will completely overrun a home. You would be able to see and smell them in broad daylight.

You are more likely to move out and abandon all your belongings before it gets to this point.

Bed Bug Imposters

Itchy bumps can be caused by all sorts of things. The following examples are just a few possibilities that mirror bed bug symptoms.

They’re the reason why you should find several signs of bed bugs before committing to treatment.

Treating for the wrong pest or an environmental factor will get you nowhere.

Bugs Mistaken for Bed Bugs

We’ve all had unexplained itches – the feeling of something crawling on your leg that’s never found is very normal

These bites and itches are a normal part of life that can be incorrectly blamed on bed bugs. Media attention has made bed bug paranoia very common.

Common Bed Bug Impersonators

  • Mosquitos
  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Any biting bug
  • Anything that makes you itch

Mosquitos and fleas are similar sneaky biters. They leave itchy bumps and rashes that can be easily mistaken for bed bug bites. This is why we recommend finding signs other than bites before starting treatment.

Spider beetles and bed bugs, 3 spider beetles in each picture, the rest are bed bugs. Source: ©2012 Louento.pix (CC BY-ND)

People also misdiagnose the other way. In these cases, folks believe they have fleas or gnats when they actually are dealing with bed bugs.

Bed bug treatment is expensive and dangerous if performed incorrectly. Applying pesticides the right way while wearing pesticide protection clears that risk.

Take the time to learn how to use your bed bug tools.

These chemicals and powders are meant to kill after all.

Environmental Bed Bug Imposters

Things that aren’t even insects can be the cause of mystery itches and rashes.

Environmental conditions like allergies and dry weather can create bed bug like symptoms.

Bites no longer in distinguishable rows once infestations reach critical levels. Raised red welts must be very itchy! ©2009 japharl

Household Products That Cause Itching and Irritation

  • Detergents
  • Soaps
  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaning agents
  • Beauty products
  • Medications
  • Certain fabrics

The things we fill our homes and buildings with can also cause itching. The irritation can even give the impression of insects crawling on skin.

Environmental Factors That Cause Itching and Irritation

  • Stray fibers from insulation
  • Rug fibers
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Certain fabrics
  • Dry air from excessive air conditioning

There are plenty more genetic and circumstantial factors that cause rashes and itching.

Any of them can put you on the hunt for imaginary bed bugs.

Folks dealing with those conditions are also more likely to suspect bed bugs.

Look for proof before jumping into treatment that would be a big waste of money.

I Can’t Find Bed Bugs Anywhere!

It’s also possible that you’ve caught on to an infestation early on.

It’s a good thing either way!

We always recommend taking preventative action either way.

Hiring A Professional to Check

Getting a professional opinion is the best way to figure out whether you’re dealing with bed bugs.

Infestations get much harder to treat as time passes. Early intervention can save you a lot of headache.

Professionals aren’t cheap, but many find the price reasonable for peace of mind. A pro will be able to handle everything if signs are found.

We have a guide to choosing an exterminator here to help make sure your money is well spent.

For a detailed checklist that will help you select a pest control operator, check out the link here.

There’s a printable and guide for any issue you’re facing in the ebook.

Bed Bug Detecting Dogs

Bed bug detecting dogs are a popular and effective solution to bed bug detection.

Professional inspections aren’t cheap. Spending money on inspections every time a bug bite shows up wouldn’t make much sense.

At the same time, it is better to be safe than sorry. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what you’re willing to spend and how strong your hunch is.

Ask Your Local University

There are services that examine mailed-in samples for a price if you are unsure if the signs are from bed bugs.

Contact your local university’s entomology department for the best chance at this.

I Found Bed Bug Signs, Now What?

Catching an infestation early is the biggest advantage you can get. Knowing this, we always recommend installing interceptors and taking steps to prevent infestations.

It is best to share your discovery with neighbors if you do find bed bugs or have a strong suspicion.

It’s all too common for bed bugs to hide out in a neighbor’s unit while you undergo treatment. The bugs will come back to you once you think everything is taken care of and treatment is “finished.”

The longer an infestation is around, the harder it becomes to get rid of. Once an infestation becomes advanced, hiring an exterminator becomes necessary.

Preparing for Treatment

If you find a bed bug, assume there are more. Whether they’re in another room or next door, it’s best to start treatment fast.

That means putting together a plan, learning how to use your tools, and protecting your bed.

Our page on how to get rid of bed bugs will guide you through our proprietary 4-step plan. Having a plan takes luck out of the equation and denies bed bugs any chance of escaping.

Using these will only make your problem worse as bed bugs easily evade them by hiding deep inside your home’s foundations.

This turns an otherwise manageable problem into a big expensive issue.

If you decide to hire a professional, be sure you know what to ask so you can hire a great one. Our page on exterminators digs into exactly what you need to look for.

Start Treatment

You can save thousands by doing it yourself and also get the benefit of knowing what tools and chemicals you are or aren’t using. Don’t want to use chemical sprays? Save the money and use a steamer!

Once you have a plan, the rest is easy. Our ebook contains a great planner and tracking printout that will help you keep your ducks in a row.

Encasements and interceptors will stop the majority of bites. They also slow down the rate of reproduction by denying bed bugs the food they need to grow.

For the nitty-gritty on treatment, visit the treatment page.

Thanks for Reading!

While starting treatment as soon as possible is key, treating for the right pest is just as important.

Now that you know what to look for, you can go into treatment confident that you aren’t wasting time or money.

Summary of Bed Bug Symptoms

  • Bites in rows of 3 that appear over night
  • Off-white eggs, like tiny grains of rice in crevices near bed
  • Small or cumulatively large dark stains along mattress seams, headboards
  • Reddish-black splotches on sheets from crushed fed bugs
  • Tan colored molts littering bed bug hotspots
  • Live bed bugs themselves at all stages – use tape to capture one

For more pictures, visit the pictures page.

Knowing bed bug symptoms is the first step to take in finding, preventing, and stopping infestations.

Knowing where to look for them is the best way to protect yourself from a bed bug problem ever getting serious.

We hope that this page has helped you conclude that your pest is not bed bugs! The bed bug prevention page can be your road map towards a continued bed bug free future.

If you have joined the hundreds of thousands taking on bed bugs, we’re here to help.

Leave a comment or send an email if you’d like to know something we haven’t covered.

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