My ASD diagnosis: Embracing neurodiversity

I thought it would be helpful, especially as a mental health professional, for me to talk about my recent autism diagnosis. I have found out quite late in life that I have what was previously referred to as Asperger's syndrome. This is now called ASD without intellectual or communication impairment.


I have always been very open about the fact that I have OCD because, to me, it's incredibly important that we normalise having mental health issues. It's also important for people to know that mental health professionals are no different to anyone else. We, too, experience anxiety and depression, as well as a range of mental health issues and neurodevelopmental conditions. How well we are able to function day to day and to contribute to our world depends on the opportunities we have available to us for professional help and support, and how committed we are to managing our own situation.

What is ASD?

ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition (as opposed to a mental health issue). It doesn't need fixing, it's part of who we are as people from the beginning. Our brains just work differently from the average brain. People with ASD are individuals, just like everyone else, and no two people face the same situation.

There is still a lot of stereotyping with ASD, for example, it's often believed that people with this condition have no capacity for empathy, are incredibly gifted, and always struggle to function in social situations. This is true for some people, but more recent discoveries show that there is a far greater range of autistic traits than was previously thought. Some people with autism also have a huge capacity for empathic understanding. In addition, it's now known that autism isn't restricted to boys and men. Girls and women also have ASD.

I became interested in this topic when trying to find information about autism for work purposes. I found some YouTube podcasters talking about their experiences with autism, as well as a specialist discussing this topic. This was interesting to me and I slowly became hooked on these podcasts.

As I listened, I began to realise that I share a lot of the traits people were talking about. For example, I have a very strong sense of fairness and justice. I really dislike when people aren't fair (in my opinion) and this can cause a lot of rumination to happen for some time after the event. Feeling misunderstood bothers me and I go to great lengths to ensure that people understand exactly what I mean. I'm extremely sensitive to sound and smell, and I have an aversion to clothes which in many ways irritate me.

I notice a lot of details in life which others don't seem to find interesting and I like finding patterns in things. I've always had a fascination with dates, times and other strings of numbers which are even and just 'feel good' to see. I find certain sounds and activities oddly satisfying to hear and watch. This can be the sound that flip-flops make when people walk in them, the magnetic closing mechanism of my phone case or watching someone turn the pages of a magazine/tap on a keyboard. There are hundreds of examples and I've noticed that other people in my life don't seem to find this nearly such a satisfying experience as I do.

I'm prone to feeling overwhelmed when I encounter a lot of obstacles or too much information in my daily life. This can sometimes lead to meltdowns. Afterwards, I feel the need to sit quietly in my own space for a while to calm things down. This process can take quite a long time. I prefer to have daily routines and favour a few strong interests to several, less intense ones. I find it hard to make new friends.

These are some of the traits which make up my diagnosis, but there are more.

As with my discovery that I have OCD, I don't see my ASD diagnosis as a negative. It enables me to make sense of my own behaviour and reactions to the world, helps me to find a community and also to find good ways to manage my day-to-day life better. I don't have any bad feelings at all about my diagnosis. It doesn't mean I'm inferior to other people, just that my brain works differently and this can often be an advantage.

Where I have previously felt weird, misunderstood and on the outside of life, I now feel empowered by my newfound knowledge. I like my quirky brain.

In addition, this helps me to relate better to my clients with both OCD and ASD. This is a common combination and I have learned that people with OCD are four times more likely than the average person to also have ASD. The fact that our mental health is now much more openly discussed is the reason I feel safe to talk about this part of my life. I would like to continue this trend. Hopefully, reading about my experiences will help others to find the courage to talk more about their own.

Newly diagnosed with ASD?

If you have recently received an ASD diagnosis, it may be helpful for you to find a community that understands you and where you can learn more about autism. Some podcasters I have found useful to listen to on YouTube are Orion Kelly, Yo Samdy Sam (Samantha Stein) and Autism from the Inside (Paul Micallef). I can also recommend reading Orion Kelly's new book 'Autism Feels'.

In addition, you may find it interesting to listen to Tony Attwood, a psychologist with a huge amount of knowledge about autism.

What has been particularly helpful for me to feel more supported at home is letting my family know that when I have a meltdown, the best thing for them to do is nothing. Just being there is enough because anything they say or do in that moment only serves to make me feel more frustrated. Another situation has been the understanding that my directness in conversation doesn't come from a place of rudeness, but from a need to cut to the chase and get to the important part. I don't particularly enjoy small talk.

Thank you for taking the time to read and please feel free to share!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Basildon, Essex, SS14
Written by Carina Palmer, OCD Therapist
Basildon, Essex, SS14

I specialise in OCD therapy. I have lived with OCD since the age of 12 and have managed it well for a good number of years now. I'm a BACP registered integrative therapist with a diploma in OCD studies. I gained experience as a helpline volunteer with OCD Action and with the OCD Treatment Centre before opening my own therapy practice in 2019.

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