It’s hard to form relationships; should I get tested for developmental disabilities?

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a teenage female student who started living by myself in April. I’m having trouble with relationships in all aspects of my life, including at school and at my part-time job.

When I tell people what I think, for some reason I offend them and they call me obstructive, stupid and other things. At my part-time job, I can do what I am told but I can’t adapt to different situations. This leads to my coworkers scolding me for not being more proactive.

At first, I thought that I wasn’t getting along with others because of where I’m from and how I speak. However, on reflection, my teachers and friends often said similar things to me during my elementary and junior high school years.

After a basic examination at a psychosomatic medical clinic, they suspected I may have a developmental disability and suggested I undergo a full-scale examination.

However, even if I’m diagnosed, that wouldn’t dramatically improve my relationships with others, and I’m worried that a diagnosis will affect the career I want to pursue in the future. On the other hand, I don’t know how to react if my behavior is unrelated to any disability. I wonder if I should undergo the exam.

E, Aichi Prefecture

Dear Ms. E:

There are not many medical institutions that specialize in diagnosing developmental disabilities. If you strongly wish to have a definite diagnosis, it would be better to see a doctor.

Your diagnosis is not important, however. I believe it is more important to live a satisfying life, making the most of your characteristics, without making it difficult for you to live in society.

You wrote that you can do what you are told, but you are not able to adapt to different situations. You may not be good at seeing the big picture, applying what you learned to different situations, or imagining how others feel.

On the other hand, I presume you are good at concentrating on one thing. Also, from the way you expressed yourself in your letter, I can see that you have a calm and objective perspective about yourself.

I suggest that you ask for a referral to a clinical psychotherapist or a certified psychologist at the clinics you visited. They can support you with your strengths and characteristics.

At the company where I work, there are some employees with developmental disabilities. They are not good at socializing with others, but they specialize in computer operations and work in a way that utilizes their strengths.

I hope you can find a way of life where you can also take advantage of your strengths.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist