Holly Madison has disclosed that she was diagnosed with autism earlier this year.
In a recent episode of the Talking to Death podcast, the 43-year-old The Girls Next Door alum sheds light on the challenges she’s faced navigating social situations throughout her life.
“I had been suspicious of it for a while. I always kind of had trouble socially, not recognizing social cues, not picking up on things the same way other people did. But I just made excuses for it,” Madison revealed during the podcast.
“I thought it was because I grew up in Alaska,” she continued. “And then around middle school, we moved to Oregon and I thought, ‘Well, that was just a big social change.’ So I’m just very introverted. That’s always how I wrote it off.”
According to the World Health Organization, autism spectrum disorders are characterized by varying challenges with social interaction and communication, and characteristics may be detected in early childhood but often go undiagnosed until later in life.
Despite her diagnosis, Madison emphasized that her condition’s impact is less extreme due to her high executive function. She stressed that autism is a spectrum, and each individual experiences it differently.
“I’m not a spokesperson for everybody. They call it a spectrum for a reason,” Madison clarified.
The former Playboy model, who dated the late Hugh Hefner, expressed relief in understanding her condition, stating that it explained why social situations had been challenging for her over the years. Madison highlighted specific aspects of her behavior, such as difficulty making eye contact and often being lost in her thoughts, which might be misunderstood by others.
“I like being able to explain that,” Madison said. “I’ve only recently learned to make eye contact. I’m often in my own thoughts, things like that. So people take that as it’s some sort of like, ‘Oh, damn, you’re not super interested in me. F**k you.’ I’m just not on the same social wavelength. But don’t take it personally.”
After her diagnosis, Madison has found solace in being able to apologize to people for any unintentional social missteps. She encourages understanding and patience when interacting with others.
“Everybody operates differently. Interacting with anybody, just have a little bit of patience because you don’t know what they’re dealing with or what their level of social function is,” Madison advised. “I think even me, just the way I react with people, I have a little bit more patience now and I don’t take things as personally.”