One of the areas that caught my professional interest in the past few years 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 social creatures humans have created commonly known patterns how to connect with one another. These patterns were created by dominant culture and privilege and essentially made it hard to recognise subtle nuances in subcultures. On my journey I had friends, therapists and colleagues who helped me to recognise my own neurodiverse process which led me to attend trainings and learn more about neurodiversity. I also watched a lot of TikToks to be honest.
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.
How can therapy help?
For many adults it can feel at first liberating to understand the problems they may have experienced throughout their life is widely studied and understood. Unfortunately it can also overwhelm individuals when suddenly there is a label for what you were suffering through your whole life. Formal diagnosis are usually done by a specialist (i.e. psychiatrist or a psychologist explicitly trained in neurodiversity). Therapeutically there are several options to make sense of neurodiversity. I am aware that a lot of people self-diagnose and I really want to assure you that I welcome if you know what is going on for you. I am humanistically trained and come from a value system that nobody knows you better than you do. If we find that being ‘different’ has caused you stress throughout your life, we have 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, because of its structure and easy to recognise patterns.
What might be additional interventions to therapy?
At the moment, for ADHD the most effective and most studied treatment is medication. This needs to be managed by a psychiatrist who is knowledgable in this subject area. Autistic people sometimes need additional support through a mental health team and/or social worker, whereas some need no extra support and are independent. There are some promising studies on Neurofeedback which can be accessed through specialist providers.
How to take the first step?
If you felt throughout your life as if something was different in the way you thought, felt and lived, it might be beneficial to talk to a therapist. There are various different ways how neurodiversity is acknowledged in people. Some seek support from a psychiatrist for depression or anxiety and receive a diagnosis by coincident because the psychiatrist is familiar with the subtle nuances. Some individuals do their own research and have a hunch they might be neurodiverse. And others learn about it because their children get diagnosed with ADHD. Current research suggests that ADHD is likely to be hereditary. No matter where you are in your journey, talking to a therapist can help to ease the stresses.
Why are therapists interested in this area?
I realised most clinicians who develop an interest with neurodiversity are those with lived experience. Getting through school, university and work was incredibly difficult for me personally and I never knew exactly why. I couldn’t hold down permanent jobs for longer than 2 years until I accepted that what I needed was different from what work environments offered. Working as a therapist gave me the self determination and the freedom to choose how I work. I am first and foremost a psychotherapist with quite a bit of training in diversity and difference, lived experience and curiosity. It doesn’t mean I know everything – I am still learning and always will.