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Neurodivergence and Mental Health


Definition: Neurodivergent means differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal not neurotypical.

The term “neurodivergent” describes people whose brain differences affect how their brain works. That means they have different strengths and challenges from people whose brains don’t have those differences. The possible differences include medical disorders, learning disabilities, and other conditions.

Several “recognized” types of Neurodivergence, include autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome (TS).

Those who have a classification that recognizes them as having a neurodivergent brain, are found to have comorbid mental health disorders. 70% of children with neurodivergence are found to have 1 comorbid mental health disorder and 40% are found to have at least two mental health disorders. Such disorders may include depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and suicidal ideation as compared to neurotypical peers.

Children with neurodivergent brains are often invalidated by their social environments as they are peer-victimized and bullied, which leads to a loss of human connection. The trauma that arises is peer rejection, and abuse in addition to social invalidation as they are more sensitive to the tastes, textures, sudden changes in scheduling, sounds, and sensations on their skin. When verbalized, these children are often told that they shouldn’t be upset about it.

In addition, individuals with a neurodiverse brain are affected differently by trauma. Neurodivergent children are naturally predisposed to finding many experiences more stressful than those with a neurotypical brain. Children with neurodivergence do experience exaggerated or altered stress responses. This hypersensitivity may contribute to this group of people having increased anxiety, neophobia, and chronic stress. There is also research that suggests the cortisol levels in this population may also have imbalanced levels of cortisol, so the body’s stress response will last longer, which in turn creates dysregulation that becomes chronic.

These issues may surface as aggression, concentration difficulties, social isolation, relational difficulties, regression in daily living skills, and increased repetitive behaviors. Oftentimes this population’s specific needs are not understood, or addressed, and are often overlooked.

The answer to this issue is to create environments that are nurturing and affirming, removing all stressors, and allowing them to be unconditionally accepted by their peers. Experiencing an affirming environment allows healthy coping for neurotypical individuals, in addition, to support for mental health struggles and a sense of community.

Resource: Fuld. S. 2018. “Autism Spectrum Disorder: The impact of stressful and traumatic life events and implications for clinical practice.


Published by LifeWise Counseling and Wellness, LLC

Licensed professional counseling and life coaching

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