A Double Dose of "Different": Disorders and Diaper Loving

DylanLewis

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Thank you for the reply DylanLewis. And sorry to leave this hanging so long.

I see how, in your theoretical framework, ABDL-ism(?) wouldn't fit as a paraphilia. I'm curious whether this definition is unique to you or whether it is used by other psychologists? For instance, this article at psychology today doesn't include the notion of comfort: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/paraphilias For them, it seems like the necessity or preoccupation with the object of desire is central, together with either a sense of distress or resulting in harm.



Oh, yes. That clearly makes sense. And I'm sure it is true in many cases. So, I see how your view is coherent and also has explanatory power.

But maybe that isn't the whole picture? Wouldn't it work to take food as a parallel, non-dissociative comfort? Lots of people over-eat because it's comforting. It doesn't make eating a symptom of a deeper underlying condition. There are people who over-eat as a symptom of pathology. But there are others who over-eat for comfort in only isolated cases. There's no real long-term pathology. And of course there are lots of other parallels: occasional alcohol use, nicotine, exercise, etc. Not dissociative, not pathological, but definitely comforting when under stress.

So, well, I guess what I'm saying is that I think sex is pretty comforting. (blush) Whether it's ABDL sex, homo- or hetero-sexual ... it doesn't matter. It's comforting.
Brandi

I understand your second query to be whether being ABDL can simply consist (only) of getting emotional comfort from a sexual attraction/use of diapers? – optionally flavoured (spiced?) with blushing to individual taste, of course. That is, depending on the individual, may being ABDL involve neither dissociation nor a (pathological) paraphilia? In other words is simple healthy sexual enjoyment in diapers sufficient to explain being ABDL?

As mentioned before, human experience is diverse and all things are possible. I’m also the least qualified person to be talking about sexuality. But, in my view, there are lots of indications that for the greater majority of ABDLs it’s a bit more complicated (whether that’s acknowledged or not).

Certainly being ABDL does not necessarily involve a paraphilia. It is typically associated only with the strongly conflicted early stages of our identity formation and fades/disappears with self acceptance.

Also certainly, being ABDL can involve healthy sexual enjoyment. Simple? I don’t think so. I suspect for many ABDL their sexual expression is significantly influenced by childhood attachment issues; erotic targets which are focused on the fantasized transformation of the self (to an infant or child), instead of or beside sex with an adult partner; and/or switches/intrusions/passive influence between different identity fragments or alters. There’s nothing pathological about any of that, but it’s not simple vanilla sex.

And healthy sexual enjoyment in diapers is not sufficient explanation for all or most of the characteristics of being ABDL. I suspect many self accepting ABDLs don’t engage in sexual activity each, or even most, time(s) they wear a diaper. But they still get emotional comfort from the other times. That isn’t explained by sex. And some ABDLs don’t mix sex with diapers at all but still derive emotional comfort.

There are also a range of other ABDL characteristics / symptoms which are not explained by a sexual attraction to diapers on its own. These include changes in affect (feeling/identity states), including but not limited to, the binge and purge cycle, or triggering of an irresistible need for a diaper); childhood attachment issues; and mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.

I hope this makes sense.
 

Brandi

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Incontinent
I hope this makes sense.
Well, yes, in the sense that you are saying that ABDL behavior/attraction isn't just one thing, its a spectrum of issues. Yes, that does make sense. And it does make sense too that dissociation plays a role in at least some (if not most) cases.

I guess I'm reserved on the idea that ABDL behavior or attraction must include dissociation. I guess I don't have any strong argument to the contrary, it's just that it seems like there isn't compelling evidence (that I'm aware of) to reach such a sweeping conclusion. But, I certainly can't prove that view wrong.

If I could add this, though: I've wondered about that very issue--whether its primarily an emotional/psychological issue rather than strictly physical one--that explains incontinence in some cases in adults. Obviously, that doesn't explain every case. A previously continent woman with pelvic organ prolapse or a man after a prostatectomy has a sufficient physical explanation. But what about the person who seems anatomically normal and yet struggles with some degree of urgency and incontinence even as a young adult? I think that's an especially sensible explanation if there's a history of abuse or shaming after wetting in the person's youth. That can be truly traumatizing, and it makes all kinds of sense to ask whether there are psychological vectors playing into adolescent and young adult incontinence. Were that the case for someone, then dissociation and especially the presence of dissociated alters/parts makes abundant sense.

I suffered abuse as a child (primarily physical and emotional) and I was shamed for my bladder problems. I developed good day-time control as an adolescent, with only occasional minor issues at night. But the problem never completely went away, and I always had to be careful about planning ahead. By the time I was thirty, I was well down the slope toward incontinence again. A lot of emotions from my childhood came back with the physical problems, and the anxiety seemed to make the physical problems so much worse. And if you had accidents as a child, there's absolutely no doubt that the sense of panic when you think you can't hold out to get to the loo is exactly a replay of childhood experience. So is there a sense of comfort in wearing protection? Oh my gosh, yes!
 

Brandi

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The definition of a paraphilia is "recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors generally involving nonhuman objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner, or children or other nonconsenting persons that occur over a period of six months." ABDL can include a paraphilia for diapers – particularly in the initial stages of the identity the savage internal conflict can drive compulsive behaviours which would fit the definition. That still doesn't make it the primary or defining feature of being ABDL.
...
The designation of ABDL as a paraphilia was arbitrary, without clinical rigor.
...
The valid means of ascertaining the primary clinical explanation for any set of symptoms is via a differential diagnosis. This matches the symptoms with the diagnostic criteria for relevant clinical conditions to ascertain which of the latter best explains most of the symptoms. To my knowledge there has never been a published competent differential diagnosis for ABDL. Money and subsequently, the DSM, defined infantilism as a paraphilia without ever having undertaken a differential diagnosis based on a comprehensive set of the relevant symptoms. This is a significant gap in clinical knowledge which has contributed to the lack of understanding of ABDL by mental health professionals. I am hoping to address this in my next book.
OK ... I'm officially outclassed in this discussion!
I see that your thinking about ABDL is much richer than I thought before.

I'll comment on the comfort issues in response your statements there.

Anyway, thanks, DylanLewis. The conversation has been stimulating! And I think that whether you've got it all worked-out now or not, you are bringing some important perspectives and insights to the table. Hopefully, someone in the research community will someday pickup on what you are saying.
 

DylanLewis

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Well, yes, in the sense that you are saying that ABDL behavior/attraction isn't just one thing, its a spectrum of issues. Yes, that does make sense. And it does make sense too that dissociation plays a role in at least some (if not most) cases.

I guess I'm reserved on the idea that ABDL behavior or attraction must include dissociation. I guess I don't have any strong argument to the contrary, it's just that it seems like there isn't compelling evidence (that I'm aware of) to reach such a sweeping conclusion. But, I certainly can't prove that view wrong.

If I could add this, though: I've wondered about that very issue--whether its primarily an emotional/psychological issue rather than strictly physical one--that explains incontinence in some cases in adults. Obviously, that doesn't explain every case. A previously continent woman with pelvic organ prolapse or a man after a prostatectomy has a sufficient physical explanation. But what about the person who seems anatomically normal and yet struggles with some degree of urgency and incontinence even as a young adult? I think that's an especially sensible explanation if there's a history of abuse or shaming after wetting in the person's youth. That can be truly traumatizing, and it makes all kinds of sense to ask whether there are psychological vectors playing into adolescent and young adult incontinence. Were that the case for someone, then dissociation and especially the presence of dissociated alters/parts makes abundant sense.

I suffered abuse as a child (primarily physical and emotional) and I was shamed for my bladder problems. I developed good day-time control as an adolescent, with only occasional minor issues at night. But the problem never completely went away, and I always had to be careful about planning ahead. By the time I was thirty, I was well down the slope toward incontinence again. A lot of emotions from my childhood came back with the physical problems, and the anxiety seemed to make the physical problems so much worse. And if you had accidents as a child, there's absolutely no doubt that the sense of panic when you think you can't hold out to get to the loo is exactly a replay of childhood experience. So is there a sense of comfort in wearing protection? Oh my gosh, yes!
Brandi
Thanks for your thought provoking replies re the issue of whether being ABDL is explained as a form of dissociation.

I very sorry to hear that you were abused and shamed as a child and of its legacy in adulthood. That sucks. It really sucks. Re the relationship between emotional issues and continence - I have some understanding of this - I have chronic anxiety which is often manifested as an anxious bladder (ie. if I'm out, constant vigilance re the location of nearest toilet etc).

Re your reservations about the ubiquity of dissociation as an explanation for ABDLs. I understand your reservation. I am conscious of the risk of an overly reductionist view. Notwithstanding that, I believe that we are only just beginning to understand the pervasiveness and legacy of childhood dissociation, and that for many/most being ABDL is a form of dissociation.

Anxiety and depression are now well understood. So that we commonly ask ourselves, am I anxious? - knowing that not all anxiety consists of a screaming panic attack. Or we can ask ourselves, am I depressed? - knowing that depression has less pronounced and more pervasive forms than (literally) not being able to get out of bed. However as yet, collectively, we don't have the understanding and awareness of dissociation to see it in ourselves or others.

Firstly, its prevalence is underestimated. A recent meta-analysis of 98 other studies (link below) found that across multiple countries around 10% of the population would meet the criteria for a dissociative disorder. As mentioned before Dr Marlene Steinberg, a leading authority, cited a survey that indicated that 14% of the US population has symptoms of substantial dissociation. That puts its prevalence on a par with the better understood mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Considering that ABDLs probably amount to 1 in 1000, it isn't unlikely that we are a subset of a much larger population with substantial symptoms of dissociation.

Secondly, because our awareness, or what the psychs call our 'index of suspicion', is so badly calibrated we don't see the more subtle and pervasive forms of dissociation. We don't recognize anything less than fragmented ('United States of Tara') Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) as dissociation. Dissociation is commonly a lot more subtle (even for DID). One of the most common forms of dissociation is depersonalization. That is commonly experienced as emotional numbing, the sense of being an observer in your own life, or not feeling that you fully inhabit your own body. Paradoxically, depersonalisation is a common partner with anxiety - the pairing can be seen in a cycle of experiencing distressing anxiety and then numbing to try and prevent the recurrence of those symptoms. In dissociation the eruption of distressing feelings is called an 'intrusion', while the lack of feeling and connection is called 'a withdrawal'. Both elements are commonly present.

Dissociation can be insidious and chronic. The theory of Structural Dissociation (introduced in the 2006 book 'The Haunted Self', cited below), indicates that dissociation commonly pairs one part of the personality which houses deep emotion (hurt, fear, anger) with another 'apparently normal' part which is usually presented to the world. The latter's purpose is to deny and minimise the distressing feelings of the 'emotional' part (and the past which gave rise to those feelings). The 'emotional part' is all intense/explosive feelings/needs while the 'apparently normal part' is depersonalised, numbed and in denial. We spend much of our time inhabiting the 'normal part' seeking to push away or down the feelings that we fear would cause us to either shut down or explode. The point is even when we are inhabiting the 'apparently normal part' we are still dissociated - because the 'withdrawals' are sapping our ability to feel our own emotions or connect with others.

So what about ABDLs and dissociation? The answer lies in the diapers! Really. Let me explain. Psychiatrist Colin Ross (whom you quite rightly cited approvingly) says -

“… a good conceptual framework for the spectrum of dissociation is the inner child spectrum. The inner child is therapeutic lingo for unresolved feelings from childhood. The only question is: are these just feelings, or are they contained in an inner structure that has some degree of separateness from the adult self?

The inner child spectrum goes: no inner child – a metaphorical inner child – a sense of an inner child – a definite knowledge that there is an inner child inside – the inner child is visualized internally – the person and hear and talks to the inner child (DID).” [Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder: Techniques and Strategies for Stabilisation]


ABDLs have a compelling, irresistible need for diapers. That's not metaphorical, and it is way more tangible than internal (creative) visualisation. Our inner child is not metaphorical in terms of Dr Ross's spectrum of dissociation. We don't hear or talk to our inner child so being ABDL is not like DID. But our inner child manifests in persistent, consistent, physically tangible ways (the need for diapers). As Dr Ross explains that means our 'inner child' is contained in an inner structure in our psyche that has some degree of separateness from our adult self. That's a form of identity alteration, one of the five components of dissociation. (The alternative is to posit that an ABDL's irresistible need for diapers has no relationship to their 'inner child'. That seems like denial to me.)

Interestingly, the theory of structural dissociation indicates that there are three levels of dissociation. DID is the third (highest) level. I believe many ABs, including myself, have the second (middle) level of dissociation. It is possible that some ABDLs, especially DLs, might have the first (lower) level of dissociation - where the inner child is less 'elaborated', a personality fragment, rather than a full alternative personality.

So if its dissociation there has to be trauma. We commonly think of trauma as (only) combat, childhood sexual abuse, rape, a car accident in which someone dies, etc. I suspect many ABDLs when they hear the phrase 'past trauma' think to themselves, 'well that's not me, none of that ever happened to me'. I believe that we need to recalibrate our understanding of the type and nature of trauma that can produce the more subtle chronic forms of dissociation. Broken emotional bonds between a young child and their mother/caregiver can make a child vulnerable to being traumatised by the 'ordinary catastrophes of childhood' (temporary separations from mother, hospitalisations, accidents, bullying etc). Again, these broken emotional bonds, called insecure attachments, are very common. Studies, replicated across advanced western countries, indicate that one third of children have an insecure attachment. A minority of ABDLs have suffered abuse and neglect in childhood. I suspect many others have these less obvious forms of trauma.

Re your comment about feeling officially outclassed? Definitely not. I'm sorry if it came across that way. I sometimes have a surfeit of enthusiasm at discovering something new, especially if it seems as though it might also be a first discovery. Like many ABDLs I lived most of my life with the conflict and shame about myself. It has given me a thirst to understand things as deeply as I can. It is also part of my own journey of coming to terms with myself.

References:

'The prevalence of Dissociative Disorders and dissociative experiences in college populations: a meta-analysis of 98 studies. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation' Kate, Mary- Anne, Jamieson, Graham & Hopgood, Tanya

Can be accessed at - https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mary_Anne_Kate

Colin Ross. Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder: Techniques and Strategies for Stabilisation (2018) (digital and hardcopy: Amazon)

Onno van der Hart, Ellert R.S. Nijenhius, Kathy Steele. 'The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization' (2006) (digital & hardcopy: Amazon)
 
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quarktheory

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Adult Baby, Diaper Lover, Incontinent
Something to think about, i had always had an interest in diapers , pampers showed up after I was out of cloth and gerber plastic. There was a time in third grade that I spent in a cast in the hospital (months). My first real introduction to disposables , and yes they were pampers, but because of the cast they were never applied with the tapes, just tucked under the edge of the cast. Then 11 years ago , a car wreck left me with cord damage and a rupture in the cord sheath.
now control depends on how much activity, which determines how much swelling and how much pressure is placed on the remaining scar tissue. Definitely neurological , just more mechanical of nature.
I've thought that my circumstance and acceptance of it had opened the door for the little side of me , I have never felt so relaxed before the wreck as I do now with a diaper and a paci.
I'm not sure if quantum or quark theory for that matter has any relation to this other than that both affect everything.
 

StarWars7

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Diaper Lover, Incontinent
Sorry to here that, this
Each of us, as an individual, has our own unique set of burdens to bear and paths to follow. For many of us, this whole ‘diaper thing’ can seem like quite a burden at times, and it poses a definite roadblock for our social lives, especially if we wish to be accepted in an intimate relationship. For some of us though, we are already experiencing difficulties at fitting in and experiencing challenges that go outside of the norm. We are the disabled, the disorderly, or the neurologically impaired, if you will.

Many ABDL community members have been diagnosed with some sort of a disability, or could be diagnosed if we sought it out. We’ve been told we have Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or any other of a long list of potential impairments and invisible disorders. We are also infantilists. There seems to be a lot of us who can claim to be both neurologically impaired and involved in this unique lifestyle.


The Big Question: Are They Related?

It has often been pondered whether or not there is a correlation between having a neurological disorder and being a member of the AB/TB/DL community. It has been debated not only throughout our social circle, but has even been brought up in certain places within the neurological disability community, as well.

So what’s the answer? Is there a direct correlation between having a neurological difference and being an infantilist? It is through experience, analysis, and anecdotal evidence that it becomes quite visible that there is a plausible correlation between the two. However, this isn’t exactly an 'X caused Y' or a 'Y caused X' relationship, but rather, a case of an increased likelihood toward infantilism for those of us who qualify as neurologically disabled.


How can being neurologically disabled lead to diaper loving?

There are many ways in which being disabled can lead to a desire and/or need to regress or wear diapers. When determining the likelihood of a disabled individual developing the fetish or becoming a part of the lifestyle, one must look at the type of disorder the individual has, as well as its severity.

In general, neurological impairments such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (including Asperger’s Syndrome), Attention Deficit Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder each have a large variety of unique ways in which they can impact a person. No matter what the neurological disorder though, one can expect to find a general difficulty in fitting in with peers, a hard time meeting the day to day requirements the world has placed on people, and an increased likelihood of depression and difficulties coping with stress.

Infantilists are into the lifestyle for a variety of reasons, as well. Many of us are here because we have always liked feeling younger and having less responsibility from time to time, or appreciate or love wearing diapers. For many of us, this is a great way to relieve stress and temporarily remove ourselves from the harsh demands of the adult world. So, what does that mean for the neurologically impaired?


Attachment to babyish coping mechanisms

For those who are neurologically different from their peers, regressive patterns and coping mechanisms can be an attractive option for coping with stress and emotional hardship. Because many had many challenges while attempting to adapt to their social environment throughout the early ages of life, developmental milestones may have been reached late or missed entirely. Essentially, many neurologically disabled individuals have a relatively weak foundation in many of the areas that are required for a happy and well-rounded childhood.

To cope with these difficulties, many develop bonds with habits and items that can be found in their environment. This could be a plushy (stuffed animal), pacifier, bottle, blanket, or diapers, to name some of the most common babyhood coping mechanisms and comfort tools. Essentially, they develop bonds with these coping mechanisms that greatly exceed the bonds that their peers developed for the same items.

When it came time for most neurologically typical children to give up diapers, pacifiers, or their blankie, it was likely to be a minor challenge, but one that they ultimately took and moved on smoothly from, without needing to look back. For disabled kids, on the other hand, it was much harder. Because they lacked many of the same neurological capabilities of the other children, they didn’t feel as safe in their environment, and did not feel comfortable giving up their calming safety tools. This may be a common period in which such a child may begin to develop into an infantilist, refusing to give up on what they had always had before. Even if they do submit to the demands of society and try to move beyond such things, they will ultimately still have a strong emotional attachment.

Another common issue that is typical for people with neurological impairments is the likelihood of sensory problems. It has been stated before that as many as half of every person diagnosed with ADHD, as well as virtually every person diagnosed on the autism spectrum has some level of sensory difficulties. These difficulties have been discovered in children that have none of the aforementioned disabilities, and it has been given its own diagnostic label, Sensory Processing Disorder.


Ways autism and neurological sensory issues can lead to infantilism

One of the most common problems for people who have Autism Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Processing Disorder (making up approximately five percent of the world) is a difficulty with changes in the environment and transitions from one thing to another. Going from being able to wear diapers to having to use a toilet is a very big transition, and a definite change in a child’s environment.

Many people with these disabilities have a very hard time breaking from what they are doing, even for something as mundane as going to the bathroom, and hence, don’t want to do it. This inability to break away from a task to perform a vital bodily function, coupled with a hard time deciphering and experiencing the urge to use the bathroom (another common problem here), is what keeps many children with these disorders from potty training early.

One look at the websites dedicated to parents in the autism or SPD communities will reveal that potty training is a very difficult issue for a good number of children with these conditions. It is not very uncommon for a lot of these kids to be wearing diapers full time until, or even beyond, the age of 5. Many have issues with bedwetting that go on for years later, as well.

People who are hypersensitive to sensory input often have a hard time with a noisy and uncomfortable bathroom environment, and find the seams on most forms of underwear to be extremely agitating. They may prefer the feeling of a smooth porous diaper instead of underwear. Those who are under-sensitive to sensory input may not even feel the need to go until it is too late, causing chronic bedwetting accidents, and those who are sensory seekers may actually crave the sensory input diapers provide.

That’s right, many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Sensory Processing Disorder, and ADHD may actually find the sensory stimuli that comes from diapers addictive, in a sense, and may fixate on them and need them to help maintain better focus and internal regulation. The scent of the powder, the feeling of the interior of the diaper, especially when wet or perhaps even messy, and the bonding pressure of the snug undergarments are all very attractive sensations to many people who are sensory seekers.


So what can be concluded?

It seems quite possible that a person with neurological impairments may be led to this lifestyle. While it is purely illogical to state that having these disorders causes infantilism, it is not too hard to imagine the appeal diapers, pacifiers, and other regression based tools for those who have an abnormal nervous system. Likewise, it is also completely unfounded to suggest that all infantilists have some form of neurological condition.

As for me, I have had Sensory Processing Disorder my whole life, and I never wanted to be potty trained. I intensely seek out the input that diapers can offer me, and have a difficult time with bathrooms, certain clothing textures, and breaking from my tasks to head to the restroom every hour or two. I feel that it is likely that this played a pivotal role in what has brought me to where I am today, as a discreetly open infantilist and diaper lover.

I have made a lot of friends in the SPD community, and most of them turned out to have some sort of regression-type habit, even if they weren’t involved in the ABDL community. I have also made quite a few friends in the ABDL community, and have never been very surprised to see a lot of them suffer from some sort of sensory processing difficulties or neurological differences.

For those of us who are neurologically impaired members of the ABDL community, we have a couple of definite hurdles to overcome when it comes to personal and social acceptance, as well as intimate relationships. If we are able to accept ourselves for both our challenges and our lifestyle, and find someone who is able to love both our unique quirkiness and our diapering interests, then it is something that is truly special, and a sign of true internal strength.

Between our diapers and our disorders, we are indeed very unique and interesting people.
That is me all over.
 

Sagebrush

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Adult Baby, Diaper Lover, Sissy, Little
Great article! I've often wondered about the sensory aspect of wearing diapers, and my OCD compelling me to recreate past experiences of being diapered.
 

MajesticHamster

Padded Princess
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I've got Aspbergers and Bipolar Disorder, and I've always loved diapers.
 

Sidewinder

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Diaper Lover, Little, Other
Sorry to here that, this

That is me all over.
I was told a long time ago in my lifetime that being different (in general) is what makes the world an interesting place to live in and that if everybody were the same, it would be totally boring.

The only way we are ALL the same, is that we are human, and being such, we all have our faults, flaws, defects, imperfections, fears, anxieties, insecurities and so on.
 

SparkleBunny

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Diaper Lover, Little
I was told a long time ago in my lifetime that being different (in general) is what makes the world an interesting place to live in and that if everybody were the same, it would be totally boring.

The only way we are ALL the same, is that we are human, and being such, we all have our faults, flaws, defects, imperfections, fears, anxieties, insecurities and so on.
Exactly. The only reason why some of us may seem like we're "acting normal" even when we don't fit in is because we're taught to do that. It isn't exactly the greatest. It's boring that we can't open up to others since there's judgement. And it's boring that we're pushed to like what everyone else likes. I always say I'm not like everyone else because I want to be myself. And being yourself isn't a crime unless you hurt someone. Most people here have diapers as their comfort and safety item. But for me my whole life it was toys that had comfort, made me feel safe, have more fun, and let me enjoy life more. Adulthood is probably fun but there's certain things it can't provide. And in all honesty everyone develops differently and therefore has different needs. I know that while I may not need a diaper, I can't say the same for you guys. Since you guys need diapers just as much as I need toys.
 
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