(UK) Dr says NO INCREASE IN AUTISM; diagnosis is meaningless

Sept 6, 2019, Daily Mail: DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR: We'll all be classed as autistic if the epidemic of over-diagnosing patients doesn't stop Over the past three years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in some referrals to my outpatient clinic. I am seeing an increasing number of patients who’ve been diagnosed with autism. I have at least one such patient a week now. But before 2016 I could count on one hand the number I saw in general mental health clinics. Quite frankly I’m baffled by this phenomenon. I have worked in learning disability services with people with profound autism, so I’m very familiar with the condition. Yet what many of the new cohort of autistic patients complain of — vague feelings of not fitting in, being unable to make eye contact, feeling socially awkward, having perfectionist and/or obsessive traits etc — bear no resemblance to what I would describe as true autism. Before 2016 I could count on one hand the number of patients I saw who’d been diagnosed with autism, I have at least one such patient a week now So what is behind this apparent epidemic? I think part of the problem is the reclassification of autism as ‘autistic spectrum disorder’ (ASD). In medicine, when anything is on a spectrum, there is inevitably a ‘diagnosis creep’ – that is to say the criteria for diagnosis are increasingly broadened to include more and more variations of symptoms and behaviour until the diagnosis becomes meaningless. Now we have proof of this. A new study published by the universities of Montreal and Copenhagen has found that the bar for diagnosing autism has become progressively lower over the past 50 years. If this continues, then within a decade there will be no clear distinction between someone with the condition and the average person — we will all be classed as autistic — which is ludicrous. These findings follow controversial comments made last year by Dr Mike Shooter, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who said that ASD is ‘vastly and dangerously over-diagnosed’. …Surely parents would be pleased to have autism ruled out as a condition? Not so. For many parents with a child who is a little bit different or who is showing behavioural problems, it is easier to accept that this is linked to a disorder of some kind rather than just part of who they are. This also helps absolve parents of any guilt they might feel if their child is struggling to fit in with his or her peers. In effect, a label of autism is a neat and convenient way of explaining complex reasons for a child who does not conform….