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Obsession Vs special interests?

Misty Avich

I have ADHD
V.I.P Member
This is something I've been wondering about for ages. It seems I've never had special interests in my life but have had obsessions, and I don't think they're the same thing (though in some contexts they can be synonymous but in other contexts they're two different things).

As a child I was a bit obsessed with teddy bears but it wasn't really a special interest. I didn't want to sit and read books about teddy bears and learn about them, I just got overexcited over teddy bears a lot and would squeeze or even bite them because I thought they were so cute.

As an adolescent and young adult I got obsessions with men or certain people I knew of. I was just...obsessed. I wouldn't really call being obsessed with local people a special interest, having a special interest with people can only be if it's with celebrities who you become fixated on and buy all their albums and books about them, etc. But with just random local people I just ticked all the boxes of obsession. Also ADHD impulse was a major part too.

Now as an adult I obsess more over things that make me anxious. For example, politics. Normally an Aspie with a special interest in politics will become quite knowledgeable in politics by researching all the more complicated stuff and remembering facts, etc. With me, I know very little about politics and the only way I do know is from others in my social circle and if it's something that bothers me then I can become obsessed. I used to be obsessed with the weather, not like a special interest, but because I had a phobia of snow I would constantly check the weather all through the winter, worrying and obsessing over snow being forecasted. Now that I'm not frightened of snow any more I don't have an obsession with the weather any more.

So I can only seem to fixate on things that make me anxious, although my hyperfocus isn't as intense as most others on the spectrum but what I do hyperfixate on isn't really healthy or enjoyable. In fact I hate most of the things I obsess over. I've only got to get one thought into my head that is causing major anxiety, and I am unable to stop thinking about it until I have got some helpful reassurance from someone I trust.

So I get obsessive with not interests as such but with anxieties. I'm not speaking for everyone on the spectrum here, but for me personally it seems AS is like a mental health illness to me, like an emotional disorder rather than developmental or even social. I'm more emotionally-driven, or feel emotions to the extreme, more so than the average person.
 
I think the simple answer is that an obsession has a negative impact on your day-to-day ability to function, like forgetting to pay your bills on time or keep a job. A special interest is something you only think about in your spare time.

Stopping a special interest from consuming your thoughts and becoming an obsession can sometimes be difficult though. And knowing where the line is can be basically impossible. Having someone you can trust to tell you when you have crossed that line is important. Doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, a friend, or a therapist.
 
Interesting in that you didn't ever mention the acronym "OCD" in this instance.

Being unable to clearly differentiate between special interests and obsessions or compulsions strikes me as a clear sign you my have comorbid OCD to being autistic. That the processes you are describing are far more indicative of OCD than merely autism. (I was formally diagnosed with OCD many years ago.)

I've posted many times that I thought my OCD was far more of a concern than my autism. That while my autism ends for the most part when I am no longer interacting with others, my OCD follows me wherever I go, whether completely alone or surrounded by people.

Start here...and take the "Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Calculator". See where you stand not necessarily on your autism, but rather OCD. Of course like any such tests, they are never to be used to decisively or conclusively to diagnose one over such a complex condition. But it can be a starting point to explore more about yourself.

It's no "picnic" living with OCD.

 
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Well it come up with this but I thought it was all related to my anxiety. Whenever I say I have OCD people just think it means I'm constantly washing my hands or lining objects up in my home or stuff like that. But my OCD seems to be more cognitive than behavioural. Also I don't really have any compulsive behaviours, just extreme thoughts and emotions.

The obsessions I used to have weren't OCD-like, they were just fascinations and crushes.
 
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Well it come up with this but I thought it was all related to my anxiety. Whenever I say I have OCD people just think it means I'm constantly washing my hands or lining objects up in my home or stuff like that. But my OCD seems to be more cognitive than behavioural. Also I don't really have any compulsive behaviours, just extreme thoughts and emotions.

The obsessions I used to have weren't OCD-like, they were just fascinations and crushes.
Actually OCD incorporates many more considerations besides what are called "ritual behaviors". But like everything else, it is often stereotyped. Though I have my own rituals myself. Like having to lock doors multiple times, even when I know they are locked.

Conversely I have a degree in political science and law, and a vocational certificate in web design. Yet neither rise above the level of special interests any more than digital photography. Though I did work at the corporate level doing web design for a few years. My best job.

But my day-to-day thought processes? Yes, they always have some element of obsessive- compulsive considerations. Like a sense of neatness and order that can be a real drag...but I do it anyways. And always the lingering irrationality of perceiving consequences over benign things, or being unable to stop contemplating worst-case-scenarios

Diagnostics of OCD can be as complex and intricate as with autism. Also at times some interpret them as being "overlapping", confusing things even more.

Interesting, you scored quantitatively higher (29) than I did (23) on the same test.
(26–34 with ‘moderate-severe symptoms) Something to seriously ponder, anyways.
 
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If enjoying something is obsessive I"m guilty. Do not Have OCD.

Exactly. Enjoying something is often what differentiates passion from obsession. And when you have control over them, being able to stop when you wish. That's not OCD.

Worse still when you seek to stop, even with the aid of CBT and it just doesn't work. (Me)

When I've checked the front door to be locked,at three times and I'm about to get into bed, yet my mind forces me to check just ONE MORE TIME. Even being cognizant of the third time. When I am simply compelled to check one last time before going to bed.

Or not being able to tolerate a picture frame not level. Or furniture not being symmetrical to another object, whether a wall or other piece of furniture. And yet having the ability to tolerate such things provided they aren't in my possession or control.

Or knowing where I approximately parked, yet when leaving a store and my car is wedged between two ridiculously large trucks or suvs and I can't see my car. When my first urge thinks my car has been stolen again, and I momentarily panic. And that it continues to happen every time I can't see my car in a parking lot.

That's OCD. Recurring anxieties that never seem to go away. Even when I can rationalize that they are not likely a real problem. Makes no sense...but it is what it is neurologically speaking.
 
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I don't meet any OCD criteria. When I hyperfixate, I enter a world of my own and everything is forgotten except the fixation itself. It isn't ruminating-type thoughts nor is it anxiety-inducing. In fact, it's the only time I truly feel at peace.
 
I don't meet any OCD criteria. When I hyperfixate, I enter a world of my own and everything is forgotten except the fixation itself. It isn't ruminating-type thoughts nor is it anxiety-inducing. In fact, it's the only time I truly feel at peace.
Nothing wrong with a positive sense of intense focus.

That you control it and that it doesn't control you. ;)
 
I turned my deep interest in industrial colour control into a career, my first job after graduating college as a Chemical Engineering Technologist. I slowely turned myself into an expert on industrial painting. adding adding other special interests like Zinc Phosphating in turn, also included learning a lot about aluminum which had it's own treatment.
 
Thanks @Judge , I scored 12. But l appreciated the breakdown of the attributes by way of questions. I worked with someone who definitely had OCD traits. But l found being patient and supportive actually made us better co-workers, as we staffed the store together. I let her have obsessive cleaning tasks, and l came thru on cashing us out if there was a snag.
 
Thanks @Judge , I scored 12. But l appreciated the breakdown of the attributes by way of questions. I worked with someone who definitely had OCD traits. But l found being patient and supportive actually made us better co-workers, as we staffed the store together. I let her have obsessive cleaning tasks, and l came thru on cashing us out if there was a snag.

Good to hear. Though it also reminds me that at work I was just considered conscientious...and "intense". But they never did see me for who and what I am in a neurological sense.

And over time I decided never to divulge some of my thought processes to anyone, no matter how close they may have been to me. Unless they enter my home...and make certain observations that absolutely form a pattern. But even then, most of my girlfriends appreciated my housekeeping. Lucky for me they didn't know what else it all entailed besides being a "neatnik". One thing for sure, I never get any pleasure out of housekeeping.

And yet somehow I managed not to be a "germaphobe". Go figure...where some have it and some don't. But then equally a person may be that without actually having OCD as well I suppose. Equally I could point out having high executive functioning, though I believe that's mutually exclusive of my OCD. LOL...it's complicated. :oops:
 
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I remember just being thrilled that she wanted to vacuum the store, because l hated that, it was a tourist store packed with so much crap that vacuuming required a series of finding outlets all over the store and flipping the cord to get the maze of aisles cleaned. We were located on Siesta Key which is listed in the top ten beaches in the world.
 
I remember just being thrilled that she wanted to vacuum the store, because l hated that, it was a tourist store packed with so much crap that vacuuming required a series of finding outlets all over the store and flipping the cord to get the maze of aisles cleaned.
Just understand with real OCD it may not be a matter of "wanting to" on her part at all.

That like me, I am simply compelled to do it. Even at times when my heart or my body tells me there are other things to do.

Yet this also reminds me of what a mess the office I once worked in could be at times. But being outside my care, custody and control I was able to disassociated myself from it.

Which brings up another condition relative to this issue- OCPD. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Those who cannot tolerate things or conditions that bother them, even if they belong to someone else. Like the tv character "Monk" for anyone who could recall Tony Shaloub. I always notice picture frames that are crooked. But while I notice them instantly, I have no desire to adjust them. Not MY problem when it's not my personal environment.

Still, I could see how all that could be complicated in the event that it's part of one's job.
 
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I really get Monk, l could totally see that character, he seems quite normal to me. Things need to be a certain way.
 
I really get Monk, l could totally see that character, he seems quite normal to me. Things need to be a certain way.

My experience has been that OCD is much easier to hide from people compared to autistic traits and behaviors. I like transparency, but that kind of admission would probably have killed most of my relationships.
 

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