Neurodiversity in its simplest definition, is the concept that when it comes to the human brain and nervous system, people don’t all end up the same. The term is used to represent the different ways people think, behave, communicate, and more.
Neurodiversity is often associated with challenges an individual may face. For instance, people with neurodiverse traits may be diagnosed with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA) dyslexia, or autism. But the concept turns the traditional diagnoses on their heads. Instead of thinking something is “wrong” with the person, the new science is suggesting that within the human genome, there is a diversity we’ve yet to fully grasp. Conditions aren’t necessarily faults in the brain but rather a unique expression.
Neurodiversity and Mental Health
Extensive data points to the fact that there are greater rates of depression and anxiety co-occurring in individuals with diagnoses of autism, ADHD, and dyspraxia. Autism alone has been linked to higher rates of anxiety, eating disorders, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. Much of this may stem from the fact that individuals with autism have typically been found to have low levels of dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitter greatly responsible for elevated moods.
But what about those individuals whose levels of dopamine are in the normal range? And for that matter, what about depression and anxiety in people who have not been diagnosed with any other cognitive condition?
For years, psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists have tried to understand the profound links between body, brain, and life experiences. And what we have learned is that narrow diagnostic categorization doesn’t allow us to recognize all of the diverse ways cognitive conditions express themselves in the human race.
Neurodiversity helps solve this. It embraces the complexity of the interconnectedness of the brain, body and life to help us get better patient outcomes. As clinicians, we need to move away from crude labeling and diagnoses and begin to focus on personalized interventions and treatment plans to better serve our clients.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW