Autism diagnosis is common in adulthood, particularly for females, and is often noted to be emotionally impactful, with a lack of post-diagnostic support. Personal identity consists of characteristics that define an individual and differentiate them from others. Autistic personal identity is an individual’s sense of whether autism is part of who they are, as opposed to autistic social identity which involves identifying with other autistic people. The present study hypothesised that more positive personal autistic identity would relate to higher self-esteem and wellbeing, and that earlier diagnosis and longer time passed since diagnosis would relate to more positive personal autistic identity.
The study distributed an online survey which was completed by 151 autistic adults, which measured: autistic characteristics, self-esteem, mental wellbeing and personal autistic identity. Lastly, participants were asked how receiving an autism diagnosis affected how they felt about themselves using an open qualitative question.
The results showed that greater pride in autistic identity was linked with higher self-esteem and that greater feelings of dissatisfaction with autistic identity related to reports of lower wellbeing. In addition, as the number of years since diagnosis increased, dissatisfaction with autistic identity decreased. In response to the qualitative question, most commonly participants noted there to be an emotional adjustment and adaptation process that over time led to improved satisfaction in autistic personal identity. However, it was noted that there was a lack of external support. Therefore, the study highlighted a clear need for high-quality information and support post-diagnosis.
This study is available as a preprint here: https://psyarxiv.com/4ns83/
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