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

5 Comments

  1. Shannon Colebank

    I think you are making a mistake in the way you collect information about the percentage of Furries with Autism. You said, “In another study we asked participants whether they had been formally diagnosed by a professional as being on the Autism Spectrum”, when the drug-pushing medical profesion cannot find it’s own ass with a flashlight and a map. I think the question you should be asking is, “Do you believe you are Autistic?” In which case you will probably end up with a much higher percentage of Furries identifying as Autistic; i.e., do not ask them what a doctor thinks of them. Ask them what they think of themselves. – Shannon.

    Reply
    • Admin

      Hey Shannon! You’re right, and the answer is that we asked both ways in our most recent studies, self-identification and professional diagnosis, because both are valuable for understanding people’s experiences. Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Reply
  2. Wolf VanZandt

    This looks like good data to me. Like all good results, these must be combined with the results of other studies to build a more complete picture.

    There are a couple of holes though. Self-diagnosis carries the problem that the diagnostician is neither trained or experienced. The problem with professional diagnosis is that although autism has been linked with neurodiversity, especially in pathways between the frontal cortex and the rest of the brain, it’s still diagnosed with a checklist-of-symptoms method. It would miss differentiating between autism and a different neurovarience that mimics autism.

    But the cool thing about this study is that it doesn’t support expected outcomes. It emphasizes that, in science, a well designed, but failed, experiment is just as good as (or better than) a successful experiment!

    Reply
  3. Mathi Bear

    Asperger’s syndrome is an extremely poor choice of words. It comes from the Nazi Hans Asperger who tortured mentally ill people for his “research”. Also, High-functioning autism is judgemental and no longer in common usage. “As of 2013, Asperger Syndrome and High-functioning autism are no longer terms used by the American Psychological Association, and have instead both been merged into autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “

    Reply
    • Admin

      True. The Furscience team is proud to include the Clinical Psychologist, Dr Elizabeth Fein, who specializes in neurodiversity and will have an entire page dedicated to Furries on the spectrum with specific recommendations on how conventions and researchers can do better: this will include changing, modifying, and/or eliminating anachronistic or insufficient terms. These changes are on-going, have already impacted the survey language, and will be reflected going forward when the website is updated this year, 2023. Appreciate the comment: we’re on it 🙂

      Reply

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