Autism and psychosis: The elephant in the room
I am Autistic and ADHD, some might affectionately refer to me as AuDHD. However, to think that these two diagnostic categories tell the whole story of my neurodivergence is to miss out on a significant part of my experience of our shared reality.
The truth is, I don’t always experience our shared reality. My name is David, and I’m Schizophrenic.
Psychosis rarely makes it into the discussions of “mental health awareness”. In fact, most people view those like me as dangerous and incapable of taking part in the world. Many assume that people like me spend their lives in psychiatric facilities, taking part in unstimulating arts and crafts and therapy sessions. Some may think of us as criminally insane, restrained in a room, while having medication forcibly given to us.
While not totally inaccurate, I have spent time as an inpatient, and a lot of us are regular people with regular lives.
You might be asking yourself where my being Autistic and ADHD fits into this all. In this study they found that nearly 35% of formally identified Autistic people showed indications of psychosis, with up to 60% of Schizophrenic people showing Autistic traits. Statistics like this indicate that psychosis and Schizophrenia are an important point of discussion that is in no way being discussed.
To an extent, I understand why. The neurodiversity movement has done a lot of work to position itself away from things traditionally viewed as “mental illness”. It does, however, demonstrate the ableism and saneism that is present in the Autslistic community.
The fact that I experience madness is a part of my neurodivergence. Schizophrenia is neurodivergence, just like autism and ADHD. Like ADHD, many of us take medication to help us perform to the demands of neuronormative society. Just because psychosis and schizophrenia are viewed as mental illness, does not mean that it is mental illness.
The Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent community could do a lot to support people like me. By embracing us as neurokin rather than treating us as an undiscussed intersection, we become empowered to break free of the chains of the pathology paradigm. Is that not what we all wish for?
I know that out there, many people like me keep themselves contained and quiet. We need to dismantle the stigma and saneism in our community so that people can be openly psychotic without fear of being rejected, criminalised, or even killed. More often than not, the biggest risk we present is to ourselves.
I love the Autistic community. The things I have learned during my time among you all reach further than merely affirming neurodiversity. I have come to understand that things such as atypical burnout are inextricably linked to the development of my psychotic experiences. This is the good that open communication can affect those of us for whom reality is malleable.
The time has come for people to stand true to who they are. It’s time for psychotic people to open up the conversation and support each other into a liberated future. All I ask is that my Autistic comrades give us the space and compassion to do so.
To read more about my experiences of madness and schizophrenia, please consider purchasing a subscription to my substack
- Creating Autistic Suffering: Neuronormativity in mental health treatment 9
- Being Autistic doesn’t automatically make you a good person 3
- Autistic people and the burnout-psychosis cycle 5
- Creating Autistic Suffering: Interoceptive stimming or “challenging behaviour”? 1
- CAMHS have been contributing to the death of Autistic young people for over a decade 0
- Creating Autistic Suffering: The AuDHD Burnout to Psychosis Cycle- A deeper look 2