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Autistic women’s experiences of self-compassion and receiving their diagnosis in adulthood

Wilson, Rosemarie B., Thompson, Andrew R. ORCID:, Rowse, Georgina, Smith, Richard, Dugdale, Amber-Sophie and Freeth, Megan 2023. Autistic women’s experiences of self-compassion and receiving their diagnosis in adulthood. Autism 27 (5) , pp. 1336-1347. 10.1177/13623613221136752

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Knowledge of autistic individuals’ experiences of self-compassion is very limited. This study investigated autistic women’s experiences of self-compassion after receiving their diagnosis in adulthood. Eleven autistic women completed semi-structured interviews analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Three super-ordinate themes were identified: ‘Disconnect between the autistic self and experience of societal expectations’ (the burden of conformity; autism is misunderstood; social challenges; mental health impact); ‘Unmasking: the process of self-understanding’ (autonomy and self-compassion; validation and grief) and ‘Impact on relationships’ (diagnosis disclosure dilemmas; connection and understanding). Frustration with society’s misconceptions of autism and unhelpful thinking styles were presented as barriers to self-compassion. Most participants reported that their diagnosis had led to the development of a greater sense of self-understanding, which facilitated self-compassion. Some participants suggested their own increased understanding of autism facilitated their compassion towards others. Findings from this study have clinical implications for increasing understanding about autistic women’s experiences of self-compassion and possibly ways to facilitate its development, to enhance well-being.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1362-3613
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 October 2022
Date of Acceptance: 6 October 2022
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2023 01:00

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