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Am I Neurodivergent? Definition & Examples

June 10, 2024
Written By: Hero Journey Club

Neurodivergence is a term that gets used in casual conversation quite a bit, but it’s easy to hear it — or even use it — and not fully know what it means. In reality, “neurodivergent” is an umbrella term for a variety of different behaviors and tendencies, and it's a category that millions of people of all ages fit into

If you’re wondering whether you are neurodivergent, we’re here to help you sort through all the information you need to know. Getting a formal diagnosis from a mental health professional may or may not be needed depending on your experience and situation. Use what you learn to find the right sources of help and support for you.

What Does It Mean If Someone Is Neurodivergent?

Being neurodivergent is understood by many to mean having a brain that functions in ways that are different from the “norm.” Neurodivergence is associated with a number of strengths. If you think this term applies to you, take a moment to reflect on what it means to you.

On the other hand, a neurotypical person is often taken by many to refer to someone who falls within the “average” in terms of communication, perception, learning, and emotions. Neurotypical also isn’t a negative term — some use these categories to better understand themselves and others.

The following are considered by some to be neurodivergent conditions:

  • ADHD: This condition is associated with trouble focusing, lots of energy, and inattention.
  • Dyslexia: This condition causes difficulty reading and problems identifying speech sounds.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): This neurological and developmental disorder changes the way that a person processes information.
  • Bipolar Disorder: This condition is characterized by periodic shifts in a person’s mood and energy levels.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This condition reflects obsessive thoughts and compulsive urges, which are difficult to manage. 
  • Tourette Syndrome: This condition is associated with verbal and motor tics.
  • Complex PTSD: A form of post-traumatic stress disorder that arises from prolonged exposure to traumatic events, characterized by emotional regulation difficulties, interpersonal problems, and distorted self-perceptions.

Is Being Neurodivergent a Disability?

Neurodivergent, as a term, covers a wide range of behaviors that fall on a continuum. Some parts of the continuum could be considered by some to be in the “disability” category. However, every neurodivergent person has a unique situation that should not be approached categorically but individually. There are quite a few types of neurodivergence, and they can affect a person’s need for support on different levels. 

What Are Behaviors Commonly Termed Neurodivergent?

Neurodiversity can vary from person to person, but certain behaviors may place a person in the neurodivergent category. These behaviors might be most evident in learning, social settings, stimulating environments, and a person’s inner life.

Difficulty With Social Interaction 

A neurodivergent individual might find certain social interactions extremely uncomfortable in a way that neurotypical individuals might not relate to or understand. 

For example, neurodivergent traits can make it very difficult to maintain eye contact, listen to what other people are saying, or sit still during conversations. In addition, some neurodivergent people might be much more content with privacy and alone time than others. Social anxiety is also a very common sign of neurodivergence.

Processing Sensory Information

Differing brain functions can make some people very sensitive to external stimuli and sensations. For example, people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a form of neurodivergence, as well as autistic people, often feel more overstimulated or overwhelmed by certain smells, sounds, textures, and other forms of stimulation. 

Issues With Focus and Concentration

Certain forms of neurodivergence can also make it difficult to focus on tasks, manage time, and stay motivated in work, school, and other aspects of life. 

Intense Interest in a Particular Topic or Activity

One of the unique strengths that may come from neurodivergence is an intense interest in something specific. A neurodivergent person might have an extreme affinity for a subject or activity that interests them. 

Stuck In Repetitive Behaviors or Routines

People with certain forms of neurodivergence may have trouble breaking out of patterns of behavior. 

In addition, a neurodivergent person may live an extremely structured life, with breaks in their routine causing intense stress and anxiety. This aspect of neurodivergence can affect each person in a unique way and can sometimes be crippling without the right help and support.

Difficulty Following Instructions

Learning disabilities and other forms of neurodivergence can make it hard for the human brain to process information the way a neurotypical person would. For this reason, learning and following instructions can be exceptionally difficult, especially in school, work, and other high-pressure settings. 

A neurodivergent person who struggles with following instructions might benefit from learning at their own pace. They might also need to take advantage of alternative learning methods, which sometimes aren’t available in a traditional school or work setting. This underrepresentation of neurodivergent folks, both young and old, is only a small part of why neurodivergence advocacy is so important!

Difficulty Organizing Thoughts

Neurodivergence can disrupt a person’s train of thought in unique ways, making it harder to focus and stick to a specific subject. This disorganization affects communication, which can lead to increased social anxiety, trouble explaining your feelings and thoughts to others, and trouble understanding and identifying how you feel. 

Difficulty With Filtering Out External Stimuli

Neurodivergent people may find it hard to ignore stimuli that a neurotypical person might not be bothered by. For example, neurodivergence can make someone more sensitive to lights or sounds, and these sensations can cause major discomfort and anxiety in some cases.

How Do I Find Out If I Am Neurodivergent?

You might be tempted to find all the answers surrounding neurodivergence by scouring the internet. However, while that sure is a convenient option, it won’t give you clarity about whether or not you’re neurodivergent — only a formal assessment from a mental health professional can get you there. The reason this is important is because everything identified above can apply to everyone some of the time. 

We can’t stress enough that an evaluation is the best place to start this journey. Online resources can be helpful — even life-changing — but you want to make sure you get personal care and attention from professionals before moving forward. 

Once you have a clearer picture of your situation, exploring therapy, support groups and activities, and other resources can be incredibly beneficial to help you stay connected and supported.

What Support Is Available for Neurodivergent People?

While there’s plenty of work to do in the world of neurodivergence advocacy, there are some incredible resources out there already. Working with a specialized therapist who understands your unique experience is an ideal place to start. 

From there, we encourage you to explore groups where you can meet like-minded people, build relationships, and be yourself without worries.

Find Support Through Therapeutic Video Games With Hero Journey Club

Whether you’re new to gaming or it’s one of your favorite hobbies, Hero Journey Club is perfect for you. Our weekly groups meet up inside creative, peaceful games, where our guides lead conversations and facilitate connections. 

Based in games like Minecraft, Stardew Valley, and more, our groups help members find relief from loneliness and isolation, bringing them into a safe and supportive community. It’s important to note that our team doesn’t diagnose or treat neurodivergence, but we can provide you with ongoing support on your journey. 

Getting involved starts with information about what you need and are looking for, which we use to get to know you and match you up with folks who you’ll relate to and enjoy. We base our matchmaking on factors like your preferred support style, your mental health focus areas, and even neurodivergence. 

Get connected with a group today — sign up for your first session.

The Bottom Line

Neurodivergence can be a confusing topic at first. Since it’s an umbrella term, there’s much more depth under the surface to learn about and explore. We encourage you to reach out for professional help if you’re struggling and feel that the cause could be a form of neurodivergence — there are resources out there for you!

Sources:

Neurodiversity | NCI

Neurodivergent: What It Is, Symptoms & Types | Cleveland Clinic

Stop Asking Neurodivergent People to Change the Way They Communicate | HBR

Neurodiversity Is a Competitive Advantage | HBR