Addiction to, or dependency on, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and any number of others, from gambling to binge eating, is sadly very common for us, at certain points in our lives, particularly for those who don’t know they we neurodivergent, and for those who are misunderstood (which is probably the majority of us). It features frequently in clinical writing and neurodivergent writers’ memoirs.

These addictions are (albeit unhealthy) coping mechanisms. Drugs, alcohol and nicotine, for instance, may start as a way of dulling the brain, dulling the pain, reducing anxiety, of trying to function in a world that doesn’t understand us, then inevitably becomes a physical and/or emotional addiction.

This is heavily over-simplified but the important point is that this is not wilful abuse, it is a crutch, a perceived stress reliever that, of course, brings its own set of problems. It’s complicated. It’s not something to be ashamed of – no one gets there without environmental and emotional pressures. I think it would be fair to say that no one, of any neurotype, deliberately sets out to become addicted or dependent – it tends to stem from trauma. Many of these addictions are also influenced by peer pressure – something that autistic people are horribly familiar with (see mirroring, masking and complex trauma for starters.

I’d strongly recommend reading Chapter 6 of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, if this interests you. You’ll find details of the book on the Information page. The chapter is called Socialising, Anxiety, and Addictions by Barb Cook. It’s so beautifully frank and honest. It must have taken a lot of courage to write.