11.2 Psychological Conditions

In conjunction with wellness, we sought to test whether presumptions about the furry fandom as maladjusted or dysfunctional were supported or refuted by the data.

Across several studies, furries were shown to be no more likely than non-furries to experience anxiety in their day-to-day lives,1 and were diagnosed with anxiety disorders at a rate no higher than the general population (6.1%.)2 Similarly, furries were no more likely to experience depression than non-furries or members of other fandoms,3 Furries were also no more likely to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (9.2%,)4 to have been prescribed psychotropic medication (37.3%,)5, or to have been diagnosed with a medical condition.6 These findings coincide with other data showing that furries are no more likely to experience dysfunctional fantasy or delusion than non-furries.7

In fact, of all the conditions studied, there was only one where the prevalence rate is possibly higher than in the general population: Asperger’s Syndrome, or high-functioning autism. Approximately 4% of participants indicated that they had been diagnosed of Asperger’s Syndrome (but see below). Given that estimates of the prevalence rate of Asperger’s Syndrome in the general population differ immensely, it is difficult to know exactly how much more prevalent this condition is in the furry fandom than the general population. However, the most conservative estimates suggest that, based on the obtained data, furries are at least 2.25 times more likely to have Asperger’s Syndrome than the general population, even after controlling for different sex ratios in the furry fandom. Additionally, there was a small, but significant positive relationship between the extent to which participants identified as being furry and having Asperger’s Syndrome (B = .083, p = .023). It should be noted, however, that one trait commonly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome is a powerful focus on a narrow or specific activity or interest. 

In another study we asked participants whether they had been formally diagnosed by a professional as being on the autism spectrum8: 11.7% of furries indicated that they have. This is a number considerably higher than that of the general population, though it caries with it some important caveats. First, males are more likely than females to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and given that the fandom is predominantly male, this may account for at least some of this difference. As a second point, we believe that this finding is not unique to the furry fandom, but rather is a characteristic of any fan group. Given that one of the diagnostic criteria of autism is a strong interest/fascination with a specific subject, we think that fandoms—as places full of people with passionate interest in a topic—may be particularly appealing to people on the autism spectrum. In future studies of other fandoms (e.g., sports, brony, anime) we will test this particular hypothesis to see whether our results are idiosyncrasies of the furry fandom or part of a broader trend across all fandoms.

In sum, generally speaking, there is little relationship between furries and clinical diagnoses of psychological dysfunction. Across several studies, furries did not differ significantly from the general population with regard to the prevalence psychological conditions. As such, it is incorrect to define or “try to explain furries” by the presence of any particular psychological condition or through any type of psychological dysfunction, as the data do not support such claims.

References

  1. International Online Furry Survey: Winter 2011
  2. Anthrocon 2013 Study
  3. See IARP 2014 3-fandom study; International Online Furry Survey: Winter 2011
  4. Anthrocon 2013 Study
  5. Anthrocon 2013 Study
  6. Furry Fiesta 2015
  7. See 9.2 Fantasy Engagement
  8. Anthrocon 2018 Study

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