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Health Series: Announcements

Investigating the overlaps in autism and personality disorder diagnoses in women

New project awarded £80,000 funding from the health research fund, Words that Carry On (WTCO)

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

Dr Kirsten Barnicot, Division of Health Services Research and Management, and collaborators at the University of Oxford and University College London have been awarded £80,000 by the mental health research fund, Words that Carry On (WTCO).

The funding will support a new project which will examine why autism can be missed or misdiagnosed in women.  People with a female gender identity and people assigned female gender at birth, but identifying differently, will be included in the research. The aim of the project is to deliver practical guidance for clinicians and mental health service-users to help minimise the stress and trauma that can accompany inaccurate diagnoses.

WTCO was set up in 2018 by the family and friends of Lindsay Riddoch, who took her own life after a long struggle with mental health problems. WTCO worked with the research charity, The McPin Foundation, to raise the funds for the award.

The award requires that researchers use the expertise of individuals with lived experience, of  autism and/or the difficulties associated with the diagnosis of personality disorder, and that the work produces useful knowledge that can be implemented to improve people’s lives.

Misdiagnoses of autism

As our understanding of autism develops, there is growing recognition that autism is often missed or misdiagnosed. The new project will focus on why and how this happens for women who receive a diagnosis of personality disorder. The team of academic and lived experience researchers will use a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to explore a number of potential reasons for this, including gender stereotypes; social camouflaging; problems with current assessment methods; and apparent overlaps between autism and the diagnosis of personality disorder in emotion regulation and interpersonal interactions.

Dr Barnicot said:

I am delighted to have the opportunity to co-lead the Words That Carry on Research project on autism and the diagnosis of personality disorder. Receiving diagnostic explanations and treatments that don’t fit can be a damaging experience. I am therefore passionate about carrying out research that supports people to find explanations that help them to make sense of themselves and to make positive changes in their lives.

“Starting from the ground up, through building an understanding of similarities and differences in lived experiences, we hope our research will improve recognition and differentiation of autism and the diagnosis of personality disorder. “

Lived experience researcher, Jennie Parker, will be co-leading the project with Dr Barnicot, and said:

“Being given the opportunity to co-lead this project is extremely important to me, as it is very relevant to my own lived experience and that of others that I have spoken to. I hope that our research will shed light on a way of developing a new understanding of who we are through helping others to see beyond stereotypes and challenge engrained ways of thinking about diagnostic categories.”

The project is due to start in October 2021 and will fund a PhD student.

Find out more

Visit the Words that Carry On website

Visit the Division of Health Services Research and Management webpage.

Getting support

If you're a student at City, and need support, you can get help through the Student Counselling and Mental Health Service.

If you're a member of staff at City, you can access support through the Occupational Health Service.

If you, or someone you know, needs support there are a number of helplines you can call:

Samaritans – for everyone

Call 116 123 - 24 hours a day, every day


Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men

Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day

Visit the webchat page – 5pm to midnight every day

Shout 85258 – for everyone

Free, 24/7 mental health text support in the UK

Papyrus – for people under 35

Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am – midnight every day of the year (Weekends and Bank Holidays included)

Text 07860039967


Childline – for children and young people under 19

Call 0800 1111 – the number won't show up on your phone bill

The Silver Line – for older people

Call 0800 4 70 80 90 – 24 hours a day, every day

Anyone can also contact their GP for advice and support.

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