In 1998, Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist, coined the term “neurodiversity” 1. This was an inclusive word, meant to recognize that every single brain is different and develops uniquely from each other. In fact, you can think of a brain the same way we think of snowflakes or fingerprints. Each one is completely unique from the other, no two are the same. This is vital to remember when considering how a person develops and in determining if a person is sick. Instead of just evaluating if a person is functioning normally, you must consider that their “normal” is different from any other person’s normal. For example, an adult learning to draw later in life is not abnormal when compared to a child with autism spectrum disorder who is naturally better at drawing1. A neurodivergent test can help you understand yourself and how you learn, process and go about your life.
While neurodiversity acknowledges inclusivity in the different development patterns each person experiences, neurodivergent is an exclusive term acknowledging that the child in this example is differently abled2. So how do you test for neurodivergence? There are many different self-tests, symptom tests, and even neurodivergent music tests that can help determine if you are neurodivergent.
- Is Social Anxiety a Neurodivergent Disorder?
- Neurodivergent Tests
- Using CareClinic to Test your Neurodivergence
Neurodivergent is just a fancy word to describe any person who has differences in their brain that affect the way their brain works1. The term itself is quite broad and refers to disorders ranging from learning disabilities to more medical abnormalities. However, don’t let the connotation lead you astray, being neurodivergent comes with a lot of its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, some people who are neurodivergent will be better able to visualize, and complete complicated mathematical problems and may even have better memory1!
Opposite to neurodivergent is neurotypical1. Based on what neurodivergence implicates, I’m sure the term neurotypical is quite self-explanatory. It simply refers to people who do not have a difference in brain function or corresponding changes in their strengths and weaknesses1. For these people, their cognitive profile matches what is established as normal in our population2. Contrastingly, neurodivergent individuals do not have a corresponding normal cognitive profile2.
What are Some Symptoms of Neurodivergence?
Classifying yourself or someone else as neurodivergent isn’t as easy as looking at a list of symptoms1. In fact, being neurodivergent isn’t really a medical term or diagnosis at all. It simply refers to a difference in brain function. To make this clearer, take the example of 2 people with the same medical condition.
Say this condition has 6 key symptoms. Individual 1 exhibits the first 3 symptoms on the list, while individual 2 shows the last 3. Even though both have the same condition, they each have different signs and symptoms, demonstrating that they are neurodivergent1. The takeaway: being neurodivergent does not come with a list of symptoms but instead is more of a comparative measure.
Consequently, as tracking your symptoms may not be directly beneficial to figure out if you are neurodivergent, keeping a diary might be the better option! The CareClinic diary offers you a blank slate, where you can write exactly how you feel, process and problem-solve the situations you encounter. These notes are helpful to show you your therapist, psychiatrist, or any physician you may be seeing to help them understand your unique cognitive process. Concluding if you are neurodivergent becomes much less complex with this information on hand!
The Three Types of Neurodiversity
Applied neurodiversity includes conditions that an individual is born with that are not considered health conditions3. These types of conditions often encompass difficulty in gross motor control, number concepts and reading3. Some examples include:
- For example, Dyscalculia – A difficulty in understanding numbers and applying related concepts and calculations3.
- Dyslexia – A difficulty in language processing affecting reading, writing and speech3.
- Such as Dyspraxia – A difficulty in planning and executing movement with implications for intellectual, social, emotional, and sensory development3.
Clinical neurodiversity includes conditions that an individual is born with and health conditions3. These conditions often relate to communication, social skills, behaviour, and impulsivity3. Some examples of clinical neurodiverse conditions include:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – a developmental condition affecting the individual’s attention span, impulse control, mood, and activity3.
- For example Autism – A condition affecting an individual’s communication, social interaction, impulsivity, interest and sensory regulation3.
- For example Intellectual Disability – A developmental condition impacting how an individual develops in their cognitive function and adaptive behaviour. This in turn affects thinking, learning, reasoning, and problem solving3.
- Such as Tourette Syndrome – A condition affecting an individual’s nervous system, causing uncontrollable and repetitive movements and vocalisations3.
Acquire neurodiverse conditions include neurological differences that are the result of a health condition the individual was not born with or an injury3. This type of neurodiversity generally resolves as the illness of injury heals or worsens as the condition progresses negatively3. Some examples include:
- For example an acquired brain injury – Damage to the brain that is caused by an external event often affecting memory, personal organization, communication and concentration3.
- For example illnesses – Can include Parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, stroke and more. For example, they generally affect the nervous system and lead to an illness-related neurological condition3.
- Such as mental health – These conditions affect cognition and include anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Causes for these conditions vary from person to person and are considered acquired as they can be episodic and temporary3.
Is Social Anxiety a Neurodivergent Disorder?
Of the conditions we just listed, mental health is likely the one that caught your eye. So many of us have or are currently experiencing a mental health disorder in our lives. In fact, there is a projected lifetime risk of experiencing any mental health disorder of almost 51%4! Mental health is a huge focal point of concern today. So, what is the correlation between mental health and neurodivergence? Is having social anxiety neurodivergent? Or more generally, is having anxiety neurodivergent? What about depression, is depression neurodivergent?
Is Having Anxiety Neurodivergent?
Mental health within the neurodiversity paradigm is difficult to understand. However, there are many statistics proving greater rates of disorders such as depression and anxiety co-occurring with autism, dyspraxia and ADHD. For example, 3/10 children with ADHD also present with an anxiety disorder5. Similarly, autism has been associated with high rates of anxiety, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders and many more6.
Much of this is explainable by looking at the genetics behind it all. For example, taking ADHD many of the genes associated with ADHD also have implications for dopamine transporter dysfunction7. Dopamine is a vital pleasure neurotransmitter that is often behind motivation and enthusiasm. Take away or reduce the neurotransmitter, the motivation and optimism will disappear. This puts the individual at a greater risk of developing a mental health disorder, such as depression6. This dopamine imbalance is also found in autism, Tourette’s, and dyspraxia6. Moreover, this correlation proves that clearly defined neurodivergent disorders do go hand in hand with many mental6.
Fitting Mental Health into the Neurodivergent Paradigm
The lines are blurred when it comes to mental health. For example, if a child is raised in a harmful environment and develops autistic-like functioning because of some event, how would you classify8? Are they damaged neurotypical or autistic and neurodivergent? Even though they were not born neurodivergent, does this exclude them from the umbrella term?
The majority will agree that the answer is no8. This is where the idea of acquired neurodivergence was born. You can acquire a neurodivergent way of thinking due to your environment, however, this is likely resolvable with the correct intervention. So, the short answer: to most people, yes! Mental illnesses are indeed considered neurodivergent, however, they are most generally classified under the acquired category.
If there is one thing you should remember, it is that neurodivergence is simply an umbrella term for a unique way of thinking and functioning. Disorders that show this alternate cognitive processing are all neurodivergent disorders. Because neurodivergence does not have a specific list of symptoms, neurodivergent testing to figure out if your brain functions differently is simply just an extensive range of tests for well-known neurodivergent disorders.
These could include autism spectrum tests, dyslexia tests, ADHD and many more. A neurodivergent spectrum test uses questions from all these types of tests to diagnose you with one of these disorders. Your self-test responses help identify diversities and uniqueness. This helps determine your behavioural differences more generally. Overall, a neurodivergent disorders test aims to compare neurotypical vs neurodivergent patterns of processing.
Of course, while online self-tests are a good starting point and are easily available, visiting your physician and using official testing will give you the best and most accurate result. Whether you use an online test, CareClinic self-assessments in the App or another screening tool, these brain test resources are often free for adults and a wonderful way to learn more about yourself.
The Ritvo Autism Asperger’s Diagnostic Scale is one example of a neurodivergent test9. This test, also known as RAADS-R, is quite simply an autism spectrum disorder screening tool. Comprised of 80 self-report questions based on implemented and approved diagnostic criteria, the RAADS-R test asses where the patient falls on the autism spectrum and therefore, functions as a type of neurodivergent spectrum test. These questions aim to measure 4 subscales: social relatedness (39 questions), circumscribed interest (14 questions), language (4 questions) and sensory-motor symptoms (20 questions). Participants must answer each statement on a scale from 0 to 3. Each number has meaning, for example, zero means the statement is never true, while 3 means the statement has been true for their entire life9.
Neurodivergent Music Test
8-dimensional audio is a special type of effect that separates distinct parts of recording10. Resultantly, different record parts play in different headphones (or speakers) and create a unique sensory experience. Imagine standing in a huge concert hall and different musicians and singers are all walking around the room around you – this is what listening to 8-dimensional music mimics. Recently, a large amount of neurodivergent individuals, people with ADHD, claim that listening to 8D helps them focus and decrease sensory overload10. So, while this is less of an online test and more of a self-screening tool, listening to this specific type of music may help you come to answer the time-old question: am I neurodivergent? Disclaimer: This is more of a theory than a studied and tested tool, so always take it with a grain of salt and visit your physician for more formal testing!
Bangor Dyslexia Test
The Bangor Dyslexia test (BDT) is a short, easily screening test used across all age groups, making it ideal to determine neurodivergent children and adults11. The test focuses on verbal and phonological processing skills, without considering literacy ability. The test uses 10 subtests: identifying left versus right (8 questions), polysyllabic words (5 questions), subtraction (6 questions), tables (3 questions), months forward (1 question), months reverse (1 question), digits forward (12 questions), digits reversed (6 questions), B-D confusion (1 question) and familial incidence (1 question).
These subtests are designed to evaluate a variety of applicable skills, including verbal/phonological working memory, recall and executive function of sequencing, arithmetic skill, and verbal short-term memory. Additionally, the test is quite easy to take, with no time constraints. Moreover, the lack of testing on reading and spelling ensures that only the distal markers of dyslexic literacy difficulties are tested11.
Other Types of Neurodivergent Tests
Recall that neurodivergent is a way to identify yourself and your way of thinking. That being said, some people with certain disorders may decide not to classify themselves as neurodivergent1. Others without the “typical” neurodivergent conditions, may choose to1.
There are many tests available for diseases such as anxiety (the GAD-7 test), bipolar disorder screening or dyspraxia questionnaires, they may not necessarily all test for “neurodivergence”. However, an individual can choose to identify themselves as neurodivergent along with their condition or they may not.
There is no set of medical criteria they must meet to be neurodivergent, it is a much looser term. Keep in mind that the disorders we have listed throughout our talk about neurodivergence are only those conditions that are most common amongst those who identify themselves as neurodivergent1. There are no hard or fast rules.
The CareClinic app has some of these screening tools built right in! Under the Scales & Assessments tab, you have easy access to the GAD-7 test, as well as an Adult ADHD Self-Report scale and mood disorder questionnaire. These tools are key to figuring out what you may be experiencing and how you can alter your lifestyle you best accommodate how you function!
Using CareClinic to Test your Neurodivergence
Neurodivergence is hard to evaluate. However, keeping track of your symptoms, experiences and how you manage your day-to-day life can help you determine if you have a certain neurodivergent disorder. The symptom tracker, therapy tracker, diary, and factors tab help you record a comprehensive snapshot of your health.
As a specific example, perhaps you decide to record your emotions in the app. Using the symptoms tracker correlation chart, you will be able to determine periods where your excitability or hyperactivity is quite high, as compared to when you are normal.
In contrast, you can record any depressive episodes or other emotions. By looking at your chart, you will be able to determine patterns of thoughts, behaviours and symptoms corresponding with disorders such as bipolar, ADHD and anxiety.
Neurodivergent Spectrum Test
Moreover, the CareClinic app offers an easily accessible PDF on its server that helps measure your neurodivergence. This PDF acts sort of as a neurodivergent spectrum test. If you find yourself wondering “am I neurodivergent,” taking this user-friendly, accessible, online test can help you determine if your brain functioning differs from the “norm” and by how much! These resources are a great stepping stone towards understanding yourself and how you can optimize your learning and health. Thus you can also share your results with your healthcare provider to further your diagnosis and keep in control of your health.
Monitoring and managing your health are always of the utmost importance. CareClinic makes this simple and convenient, storing all your data in one place! CareClinic is dedicated to helping you be the best version of yourself you can be, whether that be as someone who is neurodivergent or not.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2022, June 02). Neurodivergent. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/23154-neurodivergent
- Legault, M., Bourdon, J-N., & Poirier, P. (2021). From neurodiversity to neurodivergence: the role of epistemic and cognitive marginalization. Synthese, 199, 12843-12868. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-021-03356-5
- Skelling, J. (2019). Neurodiversity: An overview. The Education Hub. Retrieved from: https://theeducationhub.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Neurodiversity-An-overview.pdf
- Jones, P. B. (2013). Adult mental health disorders and their age at onset. The British Journal Psychiatry, 202, s5-s10. https://doi.org/ 10.1192/bjp.bp.112.119164
- Tannock, R. (2009). ADHD with anxiety disorders. In T. E. Brown (Ed.), ADHD comorbidities: Handbook for ADHD complications in children and adults (pp. 131–155). American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.
- Kirby, A. (2021, August 26). Is There a Link Between Neurodiversity and Mental Health?. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/pathways-progress/202108/is-there-link-between-neurodiversity-and-mental-health
- Volkow, N. D., Wang, G-J., Kollins, S. H., Wigal, T. L., Newcorn, J. H., Telang, F., Fowler, J. S., Zhu, W., Logan, J., Ma, Y., Pradhan, K., Wong, C., & Swanson, J. M. (2009). Evaluating Dopamine Reward Pathway in ADHD. JAMA, 302(10), 1084-1091. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2009.1308
- Chapman, R. (2019, July 30). Mental Disorder Within the Neurodiversity Paradigm. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/neurodiverse-age/201907/mental-disorder-within-the-neurodiversity-paradigm
- Jones, S. L., Johnson, M., Alty, B., & Adamou, M. (2021). The Effectiveness of RAADS-R as a Screening Tool for Adult ASD Populations. Autism Research and Treatment, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9974791
- Couneene, B. (n.d.). Why ADHD and Neurodivergent People Are Into 8D Audio. Neuropedia. Retrieved from: https://neuropedia.com/8d-audio-autism-adhd/
- Reynolds, A, E., & Caravolas, M. (2016). Evaluation of the Bangor Dyslexia Test (BDT) for use with Adults. Dyslexia, 22(1), 27-46. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1520