Earlier this year, Holly Madison confirmed something she had long suspected: She is on the autism spectrum.
"I've been suspicious of it for a while," Holly said on the Dec. 8 episode of the Talking to Death podcast, "because my mom told me that she was always suspicious that that was a thing."
The Down the Rabbit Hole author told host Payne Lindsey that her mother had told her that she would "zone out a lot as a kid." Holly also said she "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. I thought it was because I grew up in Alaska, and then around middle school, moved to Oregon and I thought, 'Well that was just a big social change.' So I'm just very introverted. Like, that's kind of always how I wrote it off," the 43-year-old said. "But I went and got diagnosed earlier this year, so now I know."
Holly continued, "And obviously, I'm highly functioning. It's not as extreme as it is for other people. So I'm not a spokesperson for everybody—they call it a spectrum for a reason."
In 2021, Holly said on the Call Her Daddy podcast that she had long suspected she was "not neurotypical" and thought she had Asperger's syndrome, a diagnostic term that was reclassified as an autism spectrum disorder in 2013. The Playboy Playmate said on Talking to Death that she was formally diagnosed earlier this year after undergoing several evaluation sessions remotely through Zoom.
"The doctor told me that I have high executive functioning," she said, "which means I can pretty much go about my life and do things, quote unquote, normally."
It was important for Holly to share her diagnosis publicly so people could understand her better.
"I feel like throughout my life, people have not really liked me or have been like, rubbed the wrong way or been offended. They think I'm like, stuck up or snobby or think I'm better than everybody else," she said. "I also don't really have a gage for when other people are done speaking, so I tend to interrupt a lot, which pisses people off."
Holly said she felt she was never "really well-liked" during many social situations in places like school or at the Playboy Mansion. College, she said, was the first place she felt she was about to successfully interact with people. Then there was the job at Hooters in Los Angeles.
"I felt like I was able to make friends there and able to be successful because when you worked at Hooters, at least back in the day, they kind of had a persona you were supposed to adopt—when you're going around waiting on tables, you're only at a table for a short period of time, you're kind of bopping around and then you're like interacting with the other servers for very short periods of time," she said. "There's so many rules on how you're supposed to interact as a Hooters girl that I felt like I was able to navigate social situations because I had those rules."
Like many people on the autism spectrum, Holly often finds it difficult to be flexible about the way she perceives others.
"She said I have a hard time understanding why other people might think differently," Holly said about her doctor, "or do things differently than me."
However, despite this challenge, the former reality star has learned to navigate social situations that may come more easily to her neurotypical peers. Step one: Make eye contact more often.
"I was never making eye contact before at all," she said. "I can apologize to people if I interrupt or talk over them and tell them why."
Holly said that this "helps other people be more understanding" with her and not take her behavior personally. And that goes both ways.
"I have a little bit more patience now," she said, "and I don't take things as personally."
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