Interest? Special Interest? What's the difference?

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Glflegolas
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04 Nov 2018, 6:03 pm

Good day,

If you have read the title of what I wrote (if not, I seriously recommend reading it), then you just might have a clue to the question that I am trying to get answered here.

OK, enough pretending to be the CinemaSins guy. Lets cut to the chase. I have read plenty of posts where peeps here list their special interests... but a much smaller number of posts where they list just boring old interests. Based on the information I'm getting I am drawing one of three conclusions...

Conclusion 1. Those with ASD are either really interested in something and will go out of their way to pursue that interest. Everything else is about as interesting as watching paint dry.
Conclusion 2. The terms "interest" and "special interest" are entirely synonymous on this forum and within the Asperger's community.
Conclusion 3. A "special interest" is any interest that is stronger than socialising. By this definition the special interest of NT's is sociailsing.

Do you agree with what I have to say, or do you say "Glflegolas doesn't know a thing about this subject."?


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Fnord
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04 Nov 2018, 6:13 pm

It's the difference between being "interested" and being "fascinated".

I find astronomy an interesting topic. / I find epic space-opera a fascinating topic.

I find women interesting. / I find beautiful women fascinating.

I find music interesting. / I find classical music fascinating.


It's all a matter of intensity of interest.



AceofPens
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04 Nov 2018, 7:40 pm

I've also had trouble differentiating between the two. I've kind of accepted the notion that special interests, like so many things, exist on a spectrum. On the far left end would be interests that are clearly "autistic" in nature, such as those that hinder our ability to function like NTs. If, in your enthusiasm, you struggle to keep your mind off of it and focus on necessary tasks like schoolwork, that would definitely be a special interest. Or if you were only willing to experience things through the limited scope of that interest. Then there would be interests in the middle of the spectrum, which don't prevent you from functioning, per say, but are still markedly prominent. Those might be the kind that lead you to gush over the subject involuntarily. Every conversation will end up with you spiraling towards the subject, against the will of the person you're talking to. You might also lack real interest in engaging in activities that are not somehow related to your interest. These examples are clearly special interests.

On the far right end of the spectrum, however, there exist interests that do not affect a person externally but still fit the "narrow and/or obsessive" pattern that strictly defines a "special interest." That's the area that is confusing, because everyone's definition of those terms differ. Maybe one Aspie considers "American history" narrow, although I would not. And maybe they consider "thrice a week documentaries" obsessive, although I would not. When it comes to a spectrum, there can't be clear-cut definitions and applications. Which I hate, to be honest. I prefer strict boundaries, or else is the term useful at all? I would not mind if the term became limited to interests that affect a person's actions outside of recreation or career.

As far as your conclusions go, I mostly agree with 1 and 2, but I think number 3 sweeps too broadly. Most introverts I know have various interests that they consider more important than socializing. Since introverts make up such a large portion of the world (by most estimates), it wouldn't be particularly useful to treat such interests as distinct from your run-of-the-mill hobby.


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Glflegolas
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09 Nov 2018, 7:23 pm

AceofPens wrote: I prefer strict boundaries, or else is the term useful at all? I would not mind if the term became limited to interests that affect a person's actions outside of recreation or career.

You know you hit the nail on the head. It annoys me when people (especially new users, but many have done it here) essentially call anything they like their special interest on this forum, which is part of the reason why I don't list anything I'm interested in as a special interest.

The examples you listed in the first paragraph are what I think are examples of what I would consider a special interest. The examples on the far right are definitely not special interests -- my interests, even my most intense ones, tend to fall in that camp.


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09 Nov 2018, 9:21 pm

I'm interested in music means that music is an interest of mine.
I'm fascinated with The Kinks means that The Kinks are a special interest of mine.


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Trogluddite
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09 Nov 2018, 9:48 pm

To me, my "special" interests are the ones which are compulsive.

I begin doing them when I firmly believe that I had no intention to, and don't recall how I came to start, nor when. I tell myself at intervals that I'm going to stop now, even make bargains with myself ("no more until I've showered and dressed"), then find that hours have passed, which only seemed minutes, and don't recall how or why I managed to get nothing else done. They will persistently distract me from comprehending or speaking in conversations. When they're on my mind during a journey, I may not be able to recall where I went or which route I took - the mud on my shoes, or my rain-sodden coat, will be the only way to know that my body went anywhere at all. I don't notice my hunger, my thirst, my temperature, the position of my limbs, nor the significance of external stimuli. When I'm lying awake at night unable to sleep, I will lecture imaginary people about them in exquisite detail, night after night after night. But the contentment (not euphoria, not ecstasy) of the hyper-focus, being in the "flow state", is a better sanctuary from the anxiety brought on by the world outside than anything else I've ever known.


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09 Nov 2018, 10:06 pm

Conclusion 1-Describes me well, at least the first part. I have a wide variety of interests because I read about a wide variety of topics.

Conclusion 2-To a point, yes. As for me, I can't be casual about any of my interests, especially pets and animals.

Conclusion 3-Doesn't describe me anymore. I use my interests as a way to find social outlets.



Angnix
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10 Nov 2018, 3:12 pm

I almost lost a job because I had to have a new Sonic the Hedgehog game on release day and I took a company car without permission to get it. I did fan art, fanfiction, wrote internet guides about the game, participated in forums, Halloween costume as a character, had a stuffed toy of Sonic etc...

Birds, I went to college for birds and my past jobs all involved birds somehow, I still read about birds on a regular basis.

Pokemon has been a special interest too.

I say it gets into special interest territory if it significantly intefers with your life...


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10 Nov 2018, 3:25 pm

Special interests are stronger than things you simply like.

For instance it is different to like chocolate, of which anyone can do, and
Eat chocolate everyday, know all the steps of chocolate production, know the differences between brands, and talk about chocolate all the time without being hormonal. It is the scale.

My own special interests drive me, I cannot imagine a life without special interests being anything but boring, passionless, misery.


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10 Nov 2018, 3:31 pm

Trogluddite wrote:
To me, my "special" interests are the ones which are compulsive.

I begin doing them when I firmly believe that I had no intention to, and don't recall how I came to start, nor when. I tell myself at intervals that I'm going to stop now, even make bargains with myself ("no more until I've showered and dressed"), then find that hours have passed, which only seemed minutes, and don't recall how or why I managed to get nothing else done. They will persistently distract me from comprehending or speaking in conversations. When they're on my mind during a journey, I may not be able to recall where I went or which route I took - the mud on my shoes, or my rain-sodden coat, will be the only way to know that my body went anywhere at all. I don't notice my hunger, my thirst, my temperature, the position of my limbs, nor the significance of external stimuli. When I'm lying awake at night unable to sleep, I will lecture imaginary people about them in exquisite detail, night after night after night. But the contentment (not euphoria, not ecstasy) of the hyper-focus, being in the "flow state", is a better sanctuary from the anxiety brought on by the world outside than anything else I've ever known.


I need this as a fridge magnet ^. Thanks for explaining special interests so perfectly, Trogluddite. This is me 100%.



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10 Nov 2018, 3:50 pm

IsabellaLinton wrote:
Trogluddite wrote:
To me, my "special" interests are the ones which are compulsive.

I begin doing them when I firmly believe that I had no intention to, and don't recall how I came to start, nor when. I tell myself at intervals that I'm going to stop now, even make bargains with myself ("no more until I've showered and dressed"), then find that hours have passed, which only seemed minutes, and don't recall how or why I managed to get nothing else done. They will persistently distract me from comprehending or speaking in conversations. When they're on my mind during a journey, I may not be able to recall where I went or which route I took - the mud on my shoes, or my rain-sodden coat, will be the only way to know that my body went anywhere at all. I don't notice my hunger, my thirst, my temperature, the position of my limbs, nor the significance of external stimuli. When I'm lying awake at night unable to sleep, I will lecture imaginary people about them in exquisite detail, night after night after night. But the contentment (not euphoria, not ecstasy) of the hyper-focus, being in the "flow state", is a better sanctuary from the anxiety brought on by the world outside than anything else I've ever known.


I need this as a fridge magnet ^. Thanks for explaining special interests so perfectly, Trogluddite. This is me 100%.


That would be a big fridge magnet


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AceofPens
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10 Nov 2018, 8:17 pm

Glflegolas wrote:
AceofPens wrote: I prefer strict boundaries, or else is the term useful at all? I would not mind if the term became limited to interests that affect a person's actions outside of recreation or career.

You know you hit the nail on the head. It annoys me when people (especially new users, but many have done it here) essentially call anything they like their special interest on this forum, which is part of the reason why I don't list anything I'm interested in as a special interest.

The examples you listed in the first paragraph are what I think are examples of what I would consider a special interest. The examples on the far right are definitely not special interests -- my interests, even my most intense ones, tend to fall in that camp.


I also find it frustrating, and not only when it comes to special interests. It seems to me that many terms used within the autism community are referred to so loosely as to be completely meaningless. Like the notion of a "shutdown," which I still don't understand, since I keep seeing examples that contradict the definition I know from books and articles. Maybe someday the terms will be narrowed - I imagine they would be more useful for diagnoses as descriptors of specific behaviors that are quite unique to autism spectrum disorder. Until then, I suppose impairments and quirks will continue to be shelved together, for better or worse.


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10 Nov 2018, 9:21 pm

My dad is NT and is heavily into football. I suppose it is a social interest, but he has put football before his family in the past, and has always taken times off work when his favourite team is playing. His whole bedroom is even themed with football (he is single), and he has a big chart up on his wall to mark down the dates of the scores or whatever, and he also keeps years and years of records of scores and players in his closet. But he is not on the spectrum. He doesn't talk about football to us. I've even tried to be a little interested in his favourite team just to see if he would talk about it, but he still doesn't talk about football to me.

Is this a casual interest or a special interest? What if an autistic man had football as a special interest? Would he be like my dad, or more obsessive/intense?


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10 Nov 2018, 9:36 pm

Joe90 wrote:
My dad is NT and is heavily into football. I suppose it is a social interest, but he has put football before his family in the past, and has always taken times off work when his favourite team is playing. His whole bedroom is even themed with football (he is single), and he has a big chart up on his wall to mark down the dates of the scores or whatever, and he also keeps years and years of records of scores and players in his closet. But he is not on the spectrum. He doesn't talk about football to us. I've even tried to be a little interested in his favourite team just to see if he would talk about it, but he still doesn't talk about football to me.

Is this a casual interest or a special interest? What if an autistic man had football as a special interest? Would he be like my dad, or more obsessive/intense?


I would see that as a special interest. Autistic special interests tend to be less common however


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Glflegolas
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11 Nov 2018, 6:08 am

AceofPens wrote:
I also find it frustrating, and not only when it comes to special interests. It seems to me that many terms used within the autism community are referred to so loosely as to be completely meaningless. Like the notion of a "shutdown," which I still don't understand, since I keep seeing examples that contradict the definition I know from books and articles. Maybe someday the terms will be narrowed - I imagine they would be more useful for diagnoses as descriptors of specific behaviors that are quite unique to autism spectrum disorder. Until then, I suppose impairments and quirks will continue to be shelved together, for better or worse.


Exactly, that's what I'm thinking.

TBH, I think the entire ASD definition by the new DSM is too broad and handwavy (if that's not a word, well too bad, I just made it one); under their definition two people with the same diagnosis could present so differently that what's helpful for one is of no help at all; i.e. one doesn't know how to start a conversation at all, but does fine once the ball gets rolling, while another tends to talk excessively about a topic of interest to them. It doesn't do much good to place a label on somebody if it doesn't help them receive support. Furthermore, I firmly believe that professionals over-emphasize one's ability to socialise, and prioritize that over any academic difficulties.

Sorry for going off topic here, I have a slight tendency to do that sometimes.


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