Thank you for asking an important question — both for yourself and for our other readers.
Yes. Autism is often misdiagnosed. In fact, adults in some studies report they were misdiagnosed as many as 7 times. Common misdiagnoses are bipolar, anxiety disorders, ADHD, OCD, avoidant personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. Sometimes symptoms in children are dismissed as shyness or over-sensitivity.
Misdiagnosis can lead to ineffective treatment, like prescription of unnecessary medications or talk therapy that misses the point. It can also lead to the individual suffering from low self-esteem or believing that there is something so odd about them that they have difficulty functioning in the social world.
You were tested 14 years ago. I give your mother lots of credit for getting you evaluated at the time. She knew something was troubling you and wanted to get you help. It’s understandable that she believed the professional. It’s unfortunate you didn’t get the services and help you needed then. But a great deal has been learned about the autism spectrum since you were 7. It’s never too late to get a diagnosis and appropriate help.
Being on the Autism Spectrum is more common than most people know. According to the World Health Organization, about 1% of the world’s population has autism, that’s 1 in 160 children. But there is no such thing as a typical person with autism. Autism is expressed by individuals in many different ways.
Yes, some people have found it limiting but others have found their particular set of autistic attributes to be valuable. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg has said that Aspergers (a label sometimes still used for high functioning autism) is her “superpower”. Universities and high tech companies are full of people with ASD who have a particular ability to focus on a narrow but important interest and/or who can see patterns where most of us can’t. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein are all said to be on the spectrum.
Your list of behaviors suggests to me that it is reasonable to suspect that your are on the autism spectrum. Do identify a therapist who specializes in autism and get a new assessment. If it’s true that you are a person with autism, you will then have some direction for getting good help.
In the meantime, you might find it helpful to read a few books by people who are on the spectrum. Among the books I recommend to clients are Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life by Cynthia Kim and Look me in the Eye by John Elder Robison.
I wish you well.