Could someone explain to me what defines special interests ? How is it different from hobbies?I don't think I have special interests but will explain what I do do.For years I have been frequently checking my rss feeds and later Twitter for articles to post on forums. These are primarily mental health related and secondarily political and general articles .I also save many of these articles to my usb drive .Whilst thinking this does not qualify as special interests I have a feeling it is not typical NT behaviour either.
I've started to use the term 'special interest' as a replacement for the way others or myself have come to say over the years that some of my hobbies are 'obsessive'. For example, I am no longer obsessed with bicycles, bicycles are my special interest. Besides, being obsessed about something makes it sound like it's an unhealthy mental occupation.
When something stressful has happened, my partner has identified that I can retreat into occupying myself with a special interest in order to process the stressful situation. This week it so happened a very stressful situation arose that caused me to shutdown. Soon after I was able to start processing the stressful event by engaging in a special interest activity for a number of hours, i.e. bicycle wheel building.
This feels positive as I now understand that I use a special interest as a tool to process difficult situations.
"Hobbies" are something people do when they have spare time, and there may be a number of them. "Special interest" is the hobby that you do all the time, and the only thing you talk about with others, and you probably go into great detail when talking about it or when doing it.
I believe the term "special interest" is people's polite way of saying "obsessive interest". It would be typical for someone with autism to have an interest that they go into 'obsessive' detail about, thanks to the singular focus that I believe is a common autistic trait.
Although for me, whilst I may have one interest that I like to do and learn about in great detail, this is just my way of exploring and enjoying that subject. To a normal person they would see it as being obsessive, because it's the only thing I ever talk about, and I want to do it all the time - and they class it as 'obsessive' because they don't go into their multiple interests in such detail - but to me it's not obsessive because I don't have obsessive behaviours about it (such as losing sleep, neglecting to look after myself, skipping meals just to do it for 5 more minutes etc). It's just that I enjoy doing one thing, and my nature is to do everything I do in detail, because it's through the details that I understand the world.