Kathy Bates
A puzzle in the shape of a brain with different colored pieces.

Hi Kathy!

I have heard lots of commotion lately about the self-diagnosis of neurodivergence, especially among young people on social media. What's contributing to this phenomenon? What are the benefits and downsides of this approach?


Thank you so much for asking such an interesting question. I am sure neurodiversity is a new term for many of us. It can refer to a person who has autism, ADHD, or more generally, a person who processes information differently than most people.

 I think, in general, the reason the self-diagnosis trend happens more frequently these days has something to do with how often we’re exposed to information that promises to cure everything from being overweight to cancer. I also think we are becoming more comfortable with self-diagnosis because of sites like Web MD and social media sharing of lived experiences. Some people may use self-diagnosis of autism to explain their social awkwardness. I think sometimes maybe people just want to be part of a group that they can relate to.

In my research, I found several articles that mentioned that the tools used to diagnose someone with autism were designed specifically for young white males who have obvious visible symptoms. There could be a bias against anyone whose skin is dark, is older, or maybe female. The cost of evaluation and diagnosis for autism is very expensive and insurance may not pay for it. This is especially true for people who have aged out of the school system.

The biggest drawback is that without a formal diagnosis, it becomes virtually impossible to get the help that you may need. Some examples of this would be emotional support animals, medications, and support in school or work such as extra time when processing information.

I would always recommend going to see a doctor rather than self-diagnosis because autism can mimic other diagnoses.

The one benefit I can think of for self-diagnosis is that we are becoming more comfortable with accepting disability as a natural part of human diversity. Any way you look at it, this is a beautiful thing!