I just read Elon Musk’s announcement that he has Asperger’s. That doesn’t surprise me at all and I reckon a few others who operate / operated at these lofty levels maybe have the condition – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs come to mind as possibilities.

Just last week I was watching a YouTube video with Prof Simon Baron-Cohen (better known as the cousin of Sacha) who is a world expert on Autism. He also used to be a trigger for my own limerence. 

In his talk, he mentioned some research used as a diagnostic tool on how people on the spectrum have greater challenges in reading facial cues of emotions that a person may be feeling. People were shown images of the eyes of someone expressing an emotion. In the image he showed, SO immediately guessed correctly the emotion, whilst I took a lot longer. The test is known as the Reading the Mind in the Eyes and can be found by a google search.

Aspergers and limerence

Many years ago my own therapist mentioned I had traits of Aspergers however I didn’t take her seriously.  Years later on the limerence.net forum a contributor posted up a poll about are you more neurodiverse (another label for being on the spectrum) or are you neurotypical? Of those that responded, there did seem to be a higher preponderance of people with limerence and being neurodiverse – about half of us had high scores indicating being neurodiverse whereas the rate of being on the spectrum is thought to be around 1 in 60 in the general population.

Looking at the traits of being neurodiverse, one can see the parallels with some of the struggles we experience with limerence: Remember, this is a spectrum and many of us may have mild traits and as adults learned to overcome some of these difficulties. 

  1. Interest in one specific thing
    Many Neurodiversers will have at least one particular field of intellectual or artistic interest and talent. They show great skill in their area of interest at an early age and proceed to effectively excel at it later in life. For some of us, we transfer this obsession with a particular field onto our LO’s

  2. May have harmful psychological disorders
    typically occurs during puberty or immediately thereafter. The most common disorders are anxiety and depression.  Anxiety and depression are very much symptoms associated with limerence.

  3. Detail oriented
    that is above the likes of the average person is one of those very useful perks. There are countless occupations, sports, hobbies, and other pursuits in which a high degree of attention to detail directly translates to the potential for great success. It also makes us great private investigators in tracking down details on our LO’s and further hooking us into the obsession. 

  4. Persistence and have a propensity for obsessive research
     The ability to persist where many others might fail is a common perk to having Asperger’s. Accomplishing the mission at nearly any cost and weathering any kind of storm can truly get someone to incredible places vocationally and personally. It also means we find it harder to let go of the fantasy that limerence is due to our obsessive nature.
  5. High integrity, conscientious and reliable
    Another key trait that many with Asperger’s have that many others admire is a high level of integrity. Many with this condition do not get involved in complex and unnecessary “drama”, do not play “head games” with others, and can be quite straightforward in their intentions and loyalties. Whilst this a great trait to have, it can drive our desire to disclose as we dont cope well with not having answers to our questions and hate the mind games that play out with limerence.

  6. Good with routine

    Whereas the average person may struggle to conform to certain routines or components of certain routines, Aspergians will typically take quite well to such pattern. Whilst the benefits of this trait may be many, it also means we are more prone to get hooked into obsessive and habitual routines such as check up on our LO’s social media feeds. 

  7. Can recall fine details that others miss
    This plays into the ruminating, replaying each and every interactions with our LO’s and dissecting every word, facial expression and other communication tells.

These are just  a few of the top ones Ive identified. there will be many others. Perhaps you can recognise some of these in yourself?

Life as a therapist with being on the spectrum

And when I reflect back on my earlier years, I can see remember traits. At age 2 I apparently started to hate being cuddled,. At primary school I was an outsider with few friends. At 7 I was taken to see a psychiatrist for my difficult behaviour that would nowadays have been diagnosed as either ADHD or on the spectrum.  And later in life I had difficulty employing people in my crisis managment business and at times felt socially awkward in social gatherings.  I also have little patience for small talk and social chit chat.  I think developing limerence was the final clincher. So many traits of limerence cross over with being neurodiverse and for many of us could be an additional key to understanding ourselves.

I have wondered if I am on the spectrum, how can I function well as a psychotherapist? I have a busy practice so I must be doing something right. Clients tell me they like my directness, my knowledge and ability to explain things clearly, that I’m non-judgemental and they feel like I get them. I think what has helped is I am high on the empathy scale and have an IQ high enough to be in Mensa, although I never joined when I did the test in 1980.

Thinking more on the question of being an Aspie therapist, I can see how some of my Aspie traits may give me an edge over other therapists, especially when combined with my high empathy quotient.

  • I excel at problem-solving, and that is what people come in for. I am able to see things that other therapists cannot, because my brain does not filter information out, so I pick up cues other therapists may miss.
  • I am high on the empathy scale – often referred to as being an empath.  I literally feel what my clients are feeling. This helps me identify, understand, and empathize with them.
  • I do not judge anyone. As a result of my total acceptance, my patients feel genuinely accepted.
  • I care that my patients are happy, and I am genuinely concerned about them; I have high empathy for those in distress.
  • I am obsessive about wanting to do the best job possible so I do a lot of studying and research — its why ive understand limerence so deeply.
  • I have a degree in medicine and surgery and post graduate diplomas in counselling, psychotherapy and leadership coaching.  I have completed many training courses; I am always obtaining more education. One of my obsessions is personal development. 
  • Additionally, while neurotypicals may ‘waste’ time on some activities that appeal to them, such as socializing and small talk, Aspies can concentrate for extended periods of time on reading, experimenting, writing, etc.. that said, limerence did knock that for 6 for a number of years.
  • I also have C-PTSD, and so I personally understand what it is to experience trauma, and how to heal from it.

I’d love to read your own views on this topic and if you can relate to some of the signs and symptoms of being neurodiverse.