Types of Neurospicy
I talk a lot about ADHD, autism, and anxiety on this blog but I think it’s important to talk about all the things that can contribute to making someone neurospicy. I know some people don’t particularly care for this term but I not one of them. I think it perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to have a brain that’s full of conflicting reactions and needs.
Sure, all autistic people are different but when you’re just autistic you can work within a pretty consistent set of parameters. You thrive off routine, likely crave social situations less, and like to know what to expect. But if you’re neurospicy and have more than one type of neurodivergence, it gets more complicated. Your autism craves routine but your ADHD seeks novelty and the two are basically just constantly duking it out up there. That’s why I think neurospicy is such a perfect word. Sometimes you want spicy and spicy is good. Other times you don’t want spicy but it sneaks up in something and surprises you. Sometimes you wanted spicy but got more than you bargained for. All of which make for a fairly accurate rundown of what it’s like in my brain.
I want my fellow neurospicies to feel less alone and for more people to understand our conflicting existence. In an attempt to make that happen, here is a basic rundown of the different types of neurodivergent conditions that can contribute to someone being neurospicy. If you want more in-depth information, resources, or self-diagnosis materials, you can find them on my resources page.
Neurodivergent is a non-medical term. If a neurotypical brain functions in what is considered to be “normal”, a neurodivergent brain behaves differently. This affects how someone who’s neurodivergent thinks and learns. Building a neurodiverse community that is inclusive of neurospicy people is important. Why is it important? Well, if I took away all of your spices, would your food be as good? No? That’s what I thought.
Now let’s get into the different types of brain spices.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. ASD can affect sensory perceptions, behavior, and social interactions. Many autistic people struggle socially due to struggles with interpreting [neurotypical] verbal and nonverbal communication. However, recent research has found autistic girls to be socially stronger than autistic boys. As more women are diagnosed, the understanding of autism and it’s related symptoms is shifting and expanding. There are many stereotypes about autism that assume all autistic people are nonverbal, don’t like socializing, and other negative tropes. In reality, some autistic people are completely nonverbal and some are hyperverbal and will talk your ear off. For most of us, we fluctuate between being verbal and nonverbal at varying intensities that are unique to the person. We’re also prone to special interests, the result of which is this blog.
It’s also worth noting that ASD includes Asperger’s. Many people still falsely think of Asperger’s as “high functioning autism” or like Autism Lite. It has not been diagnostically separate in the US since 2013. Sorry Aspie supremacists, you’re just regular autistics like the rest of us. There’s no cure for autism but having framework (and often: therapy) can help make life be more manageable.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A truly tragic naming as it is simply not accurate to how ADHD works. The stereotypes around ADHD involve being hyper and unable to sit still or pay attention. What ADHD actually is, is a regulation problem. It’s not a deficit of attention-paying, it’s a neurological imbalance. When we want to do something, we really, really want to do it. It will be hard for us to focus on anything else but when we get to do it, we can do it for hours. And hours. (And hours.) Solid chance we forget to eat, drink, or pee. If we don’t want to do something, even if we know we should and really need to, it can be physically impossible to get yourself to do it.
Basically, our neurotransmitters forget to neurotransmit. This leaves us craving dopamine that we chase with impulsive decisions, eating tasty treats, and a variety of other sometimes-fun, sometimes-self-destructive behaviors. While some children with ADHD grow out of it in their 20s, symptoms continue for 50-86% of adults with ADHD. Medication can help but is a short term solution whereas certain therapies have found more long term success in managing symptoms.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it difficult to read fluently and accurately. Impacting the skills needed for accurate reading, dyslexia involves difficulties with verbal processing speed, verbal memory, and phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is fundamental for reading as it’s the key to learning how to decode and spell words. It’s important to emphasize that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence as it occurs in all ranges of intellectual abilities. People I know with dyslexia have described it like the words rearranging themselves on the page. Sometimes they seem stable only for the person to read it and discover the letters are out of order. Other times the words seem to swim around the page, making it difficult to read at all.
This can be incredibly frustrating and without intervention, can lead to a number of problems in school. There is yet to be a medication discovered that helps with dyslexia. However, there are a number of therapies, learning strategies, techniques, and accommodations that can help manage dyslexia.
Dyspraxia, or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a coordination disorder. With dyspraxia, think of it like the brain’s signals to the muscles as having ADHD. They’re trying really hard to do what they’re supposed to do and communicate with the muscles, but sometimes it just can’t help but get distracted and interrupted. As a result, people with dyspraxia have a hard time driving a car, playing sports, or doing tasks that require balance. Fine motor skills such as writing can also be effected.
Dyspraxia is usually caught in early childhood but some people develop it in adulthood as the result of injury or illness. While there is no cure for it, occupational or physical therapies can help people with dyspraxia improve motor skills.
Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a very specific learning disability compared to what’s been covered so far. While the others can be a bit hard to summarize given the nature of a spectrum, dyscalculia is much simpler to explain. We can’t do the maths. People with dyscalculia struggle processing numbers, learning basic math facts, and performing accurate, fluent calculations.
Honestly, I didn’t even know I had this one until very recently when the internet self-diagnosed me with the algorithm and I promptly went down a research rabbit hole. I’ve always felt like numbers just fall out of my head. I use my fingers to add and subtract. I need to write down simple math equations in order to work them out or else I forget where I am in my head and can’t solve it accurately OR fluently. Dyscalculia is a learning disability, so it can’t be treated with medication but there are strategies and accommodations that can be used to help compensate.
Like dyscalculia, dysgraphia is another specific learning disability. Instead of struggling with math, dysgraphia results in a struggle with written expression. Dysgraphia is the struggle to put thoughts on paper. This often presents as poor handwriting and difficulties with spelling. What’s interesting about dysgraphia is that it can be both a language-based and/or non-language based disorder. A language based disorder is related to problems with listening, reasoning, reading, writing, or other language-related skills. Non-language based disorders are related to nonverbal skills such as visual-spatial skills and motor skills. This means someone with dysgraphia may struggle with the language aspects of putting words to paper, or it may be related to their motor skills, OR it could be both.
Jesus, do I also have this? Because I can write but it takes me significantly longer than it often should because I just can’t seem to find and pluck the right words out of my head. Half of my writing process is me staring blankly trying to form a cohesive thought. Seriously, this post has taken me two hours so far. Which is exactly why I’m struggling to build up the blog as much as I’d like to. My brain is slow and the words are lost in the abyss that is my neural synapses.
Irlen Syndrome, also known as Meares-Irlen Syndrom, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, or Visual Stress, is another type of processing disorder. Unrelated to vision problems, Irlen Syndrome affects how the brain processes visual information. Like other conditions on this list, the symptoms manifest differently for everyone. It can cause lifelong issues with learning and work/school performance. While there is no cure for Irlen Syndrome, simple exercises and the use of colored lenses can ease the level of visual stress.
I don’t think I consider hyperlexia a disability or disorder. IMO, It’s actually kind of a neurospicy super power. Hyperlexia is considered a syndrome but I think that’s an odd label for something that enables you to teach yourself how to read. People with hyperlexia display a certain cluster of characteristics. These characteristics include an early, self-taught ability to read before the age of 5. Hyperlexia can also result in an intense interest with numbers, letters, maps, visual patterns, or logos.
I taught myself how to read when I was barely 5 so *check*.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological condition that causes tics, uncontrollable and involuntary movements and sounds. Tics are sudden movements, sounds, or twitches that are done repeatedly. A person with Tourette’s can’t stop their body from making these sounds or movements, even if they don’t want to be making them. Sometimes they can resist the urge or prevent themselves from doing it, but it’s very difficult and eventually the tic will come out for most people living with Tourette’s. There is no cure for Tourette’s Syndrome but there are a variety of medications, therapies, and self-care techniques that can minimize tics and make living with Tourette’s more manageable.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Let’s make something very clear, you don’t have OCD because you like cleaning a lot. OCD is a time-consuming, incredibly stressful disorder. It causes people to have uncontrollable and recurring obsessive thoughts, engage in compulsive repetitive behaviors, or both. OCD interferes with your quality of life due to the stress of not completing rituals and other compulsions. A desire to have things symmetrical doesn’t mean you have OCD. But if you obsessively worry something bad will happen if you don’t fix it or can’t think about anything else until everything is perfect, you might have OCD. OCD is long-lasting but there are therapies and medications that have been proven to be helpful in managing the disorder.
Synesthesia is a harder condition to explain. It leads to the experience that when one sense perceives something, other senses perceive it as well. Basically, your sensory input takes an unusual route through the brain, crossing through multiple (usually unrelated) senses. As a result, you simultaneously experience more than one sense. For some this presents as tasting words, seeing colors when you hear music, or smelling colors. Synesthesia isn’t a disorder and doesn’t really have a negative impact. In fact, it even helps many of those who have it learn and remember things better.
Admittedly, if you don’t have the language for what it is, it can be a bit difficult, especially as a child. If you tell someone their name tastes like grapes, they will probably dismiss you and tell you you’re wrong. That can be confusing and stressful for a child genuinely experiencing those senses. Most people with synesthesia learn to mask it so as not to weird people out. Which is part of why I wanted to make this post. Normalize synesthesia!
The real bitch of them all. Sometimes I wonder if anxiety is truly its own thing, or if neurodivergents with a grab-bag full of the disorders on this list develop anxiety as a result to our brain’s mixed messaging. Unlike the other disorders on this list, everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their life. It’s that feeling of unease, fear, or worry eating at your chest. It can be mild and lurk under the surface or it can consume you to the point you can’t get out of bed or maintain relationships. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress but it can crosses into problematic if it’s a daily experience or impacting how you live your life.
Anxiety is complicated. It can be inherited and make you predisposed but it can also develop as a result to something traumatic or not processing feelings you need to be processing. As a result, there is a variety of medications and treatments that can help treat anxiety both short and long term.
Neurospicy and Feeling Nicely
If you’re also neurospicy, you probably see a pattern in these disorders. They all involve some level of the brain not processing things quite right. Maybe it’s not surprising that many of us have difficulties communicating when our own brains can’t seem to send the right messages from one hemisphere to another. There’s also a strong rate of comorbidity between each of these disorders. If you’re someone who read this and only has one, please let me know in the comments. But I’d bet many of you just learned some things about yourselves and are probably looking up self questionnaires now. (Guilty!) If that’s the case, then I’m glad to see that I’ve achieved my goal of helping other neurospicies to better understand and embrace themselves.