I think I might be neurodivergent but haven’t got a diagnosis

In today’s society, attitudes towards accepting and diagnosing neurodivergent disorders have become a more positive and common practice, but you still might find it hard to obtain a diagnosis.

Key Points:

  • Neurodiversity includes people who have developmental disorders that present in varying degrees and in different ways
  • Many people identify as neurodivergent prior to receiving a diagnosis after consulting resources and information available about neurodiversity
  • Receiving a diagnosis for a disorder can sometimes be difficult, depending on how accessible specialists are in your area

Under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), participants with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other related disorders are the second most common primary disability at 28 percent.

Additionally, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 30 – 40 percent of the population is neurodivergent.

Neurodivergence refers to a group of developmental disorders that are different from intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses despite having overlapping symptoms. 

These disorders often present in a variety of ways, often sitting on a spectrum ranging from subtle to obvious.

The group of neurodivergent disorders include, but is not limited to:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain that can cause a person to behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Often becoming apparent in childhood, symptoms can include finding it hard to be organised or finish a task, issues paying attention to details, restlessness, impulsivity or difficulty following instructions or conversations. 
  • Tourette’s Syndrome: A nervous system disorder that also often starts in childhood that involves involuntary, repetitive movements and vocalisations
  • Dyslexia: Difficulty learning language skills such as reading and writing
  • Dyscalculia: Difficulty with basic mathematical skills 

Given the varied nature of these disorders and significant waiting time to see a mental health professional with the qualifications to diagnose you, such as a psychologist, a diagnosis for neurodivergent conditions can be difficult to access and is often a lengthy process. 

Despite this barrier, people may refer to themselves as neurodivergent without a diagnosis after picking up on symptoms and behaviours that could indicate they sit somewhere on this spectrum. 

Some may be comfortable in their own prediction but others may find comfort or prefer to have an accurate diagnosis before referring to themselves as neurodivergent.

So what do you do if you think you’re neurodivergent and haven’t gotten a diagnosis?

Step one: do some research

The beauty of the internet is you have a plethora of accessible information at the touch of a button.

Academic resources, YouTube videos and various neurodivergent tests can be accessed online and can help you navigate neurodivergence and narrow down the symptoms you resonate with. 

Content such as TedTalks by people living with neurodivergent disorders or experts in the field, university research, quizzes and support organisations can give you a rough guide on where you sit on the spectrum while you are researching potential disorders.

These resources are just a guide and are not a substitute for a diagnosis, but the more you know about neurodivergent disorders, the more knowledge you can present if you do decide to pursue a diagnosis. 

It is wise to take some notes and collect this information while you are researching to refer back to – for both your own understanding and for a mental health professional’s understanding of how your mind works.

You can draw parallels between symptoms of neurodivergent disorders and instances in your life that seem similar or caused you to question if you are neurodivergent. 

Step two: Utilise media 

Today, many forms of media highlight the prevalence of neurodivergence and show instances of how symptoms may present in real-life scenarios.

Television shows, films, advertising campaigns and social media platforms have helped normalise neurodivergent traits which can also help you further understand your mind.

Do you relate to a character who has learning difficulties or a YouTube personality and advocate who openly shows their daily life living with involuntary tics? 

These media forms not only normalise neurodivergence in society, but they can also help you normalise your symptoms for yourself and work towards better self-acceptance.

Search your preferred social media platform or television streaming services to find content that may help you gain some clarity and a greater understanding.

However, avoid media that perpetuates harmful stereotypes of neurodivergence. It may be ideal to look at reviews and search tv shows or movies that have received accolades for accurate disability representation and education.

Step three: Give yourself time to process the possibility

While you may suspect you sit on the neurodivergent spectrum, processing the fact you may be living with one or several of these disorders can be a challenging experience for some. 

A formal diagnosis can help you come to terms with this reality, but it can be beneficial to consider the emotional impact it may have before receiving it. 

There should be no shame associated with a neurodivergent diagnosis but you may still experience an emotional reaction to the idea. These feelings are natural and normal.

You may struggle with your sense of identity changing or feel fear about explaining your disorder to family and friends. Or these aspects may not impact you at all!

Either way, it is worth taking some time to consider how life will or won’t change for you to minimise stress and anguish.

Step four: speak to family and friends

If you do have friends and family around you to confide in, consider opening up to them and getting their opinion. 

You know you best, but your extended circle have a different perspective of you that could help you establish moments in your life that could shed light on neurodivergent traits.

Your support network can also help support you along your journey to diagnosis if that is what you wish to persue. They may have an opinion that you may not have considered before or be able to provide you a listening ear as you learn more about yourself. 

Additionally, in many cases, close family are asked to provide information about your childhood to help specialists make decisions around a diagnosis.

Step five: talk to your doctor

So you have done some research and are comfortable with the fact you could be neurodivergent – now what?

From there, obtaining a referral to a mental health professional or specialist from your General Practitioner (GP) is the next step.

Talking to your doctor about symptoms can help them find you the right mental health professional to help provide you with a diagnosis. This is where you can bring in your notes to offer as much information as possible to help with your assessment.

Your GP may also suggest seeing other specialists such as a behavioural coach to help with symptoms or a neuropsychologist to determine if you have a medical disorder, condition or other brain-related differences that might explain why your brain works differently.

Neurodivergence is not a shameful diagnosis and you can take comfort in knowing there are resources available to you to come to terms with your potential diagnosis and receive support in obtaining an official one.

Do you suspect you are neurodivergent? What made you think so? Let us know in the comments below. 

Related content:

Autism in Adults: Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment
What is ADHD?
Sensory Processing Disorder