Neurodiversity & ADHD in Adults

What is Neurodiversity?

One of the areas that caught my professional interest in the past year is neurodiversity in adults. What I mean by that is that brain and nervous-system operate differently for some people. Examples of Neurodiversity are ADHD and Autism, but there is a lot more to it (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, etc).

As a humanistically trained therapist, I learnt in my therapy training that a therapist’s self disclosure is a double-edged sword. Showing too much or too little of myself can be equally unhelpful. The absence of dialogue on a website and the uncertainty how my words may impact on the reader often informed how I wrote about my work.

Friends and colleagues who proofread my content unanimously told me a version of: “There needs to be more of you in your in your content“. This felt difficult to me, because the words queer, neurodiverse and an immigrant of muslim origin have an impact. In my context, these words mean kind, compassionate, empathic, caring, warm, open, honest, occasionally under- or oversharing, respecting your boundaries, eager and passionate about trivial things. In essence, I’m a human being.

Why all this self-disclosure?

When it comes to neurodiversity, I learnt the benefits to disclose parts of my lived experience and identity outweigh the disadvantages. Having said that, lived experience is never a guarantee for good therapy, as this BBC News story explains.

What are the signs of neurodiversity?

If you felt throughout your life as if something was different in the way you thought, felt and lived, it might be a sign of neurodiversity. Here is a Venn diagram that shows some of the symptoms:

How is neurodiversity diagnosed?

Neurodiversity isn’t a formal diagnosis as such, but rather an approach to reframe neurological differences from the perspective of those who are experiencing these differences.

There are various different ways how neurodiversity is acknowledged in people:

  1. Some seek support for depression or anxiety and if the professional is familiar with the subtle nuances of neurodiversity they may bring it up.
  2. Many people self diagnose with surprising accuracy. There is a lot of fascinating content about this on TikTok.
  3. And others learn about it because their children get diagnosed with ADHD. Current research suggests that ADHD is likely to be hereditary.

Knowing what is going on for you can be major life changer and a diagnosis with ADHD in adults can have major benefits according to this study. In addition autism diagnosis went up by 787% in 20 years because it is more likely to be recognised in people.

A formal diagnosis is usually performed by a specialist (i.e. a psychiatrist or an explicitly trained psychologist or psychotherapist). By March 2022 I will be certified to assess ADHD in adults for clients in the UK.

How can therapy help?

Therapeutically there are several options to make sense of neurodiversity. As a humanistically trained therapist, I believe nobody knows you better than you do.

If we discover that being ‘different’ has caused you stress throughout your life, there are various therapeutic options to draw from. Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing (EMDR) and Internal Family Systems (IFS) appears to be a positive experience for neurodiverse people.

However, the therapeutic approach is often less important than developing a collaborative, therapeutic relationship with your therapist where you feel safe enough to open up.

What might be additional alternatives to therapy?

The current science is in favour of medication to treat some of the symptoms of ADHD and yet as with all interventions it doesn’t always work for everyone. Maybe you also don’t like to take medication and that is also absolutely ok.

Medication needs to be managed by a psychiatrist who is knowledgable with ADHD.

I must admit I am far less knowledgable about additional alternatives for autism, than I am with ADHD. I am aware though, that gender and sexuality is more varied among autistic people. If gender, sexuality and relationship diversity (GSRD) is an area you would like to explore, please do get in touch. I am knowledgable with GSRD and might be able to help.