Experiences of Neurodiversity and Moving Away from Shame
Updated: Oct 6
I have witnessed the impact of shame in the lives of my neurodivergent clients. Whether it's ADHD, dyslexia, autism, or a learning disability, the shame and stigma that come with being different can be incredibly difficult to overcome. Shame is often accompanied by feelings of self-doubt, low self-evaluation, self-consciousness, powerlessness, and worthlessness. Learning to move forward from shame can be a challenging process for many neurodivergent people.
But what plays a role in developing this feeling of shame in neurodivergent people? Society plays a huge part in creating this shame. Prejudice and stigma can make neurodivergent individuals feel like they are less than others, or that they don't fit in. Bullying can also be a major factor, by peers and even teachers targeting them for being different.
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The school system can also contribute to shame. Traditional educational models may not be suited to the needs of neurodivergent individuals, leading to feelings of inadequacy and failure. This can cause them to believe that there is something inherently wrong with them, rather than recognizing that the system is not accommodating their unique strengths and challenges. When a student is dismissed or not taken seriously by teachers or other professionals in the school system, it can send a powerful message that their struggles are not valid or important. This can reinforce feelings of shame and can lead the student to internalize the belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with them.
Many neurodivergent people with serious healthcare needs do not seek medical care or continue their regular care with their primary care provider. The barriers include difficulty with communication, difficulties with making telephone appointments, or challenges in the relationship with the care providers. This leads to lack of diagnosis of various medical and mental health issues, lack of treatment, as well as internalized shame that neurodivergent people carry. Clearly, changes need to be made to the healthcare system so neurodivergent people are not excluded and are able to meet their healthcare needs.
Moving Past Shame:
What are some things that can help neurodivergent people move past their feelings of shame? Acceptance is key. Many people experience these types of struggles and in fact, these differences are what make them unique and valuable.
Therapy can be a great tool for fostering acceptance. By working with a therapist, neurodivergent individuals can explore their feelings and experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment. They can also learn coping strategies and develop self-compassion.
Another important step is education. By learning more about the way their brain works and how it affects them, neurodivergent people can gain a greater understanding of themselves and their strengths. They can also develop a sense of advocacy, which can help them speak up for themselves and others.
It's also important to build a support system. This can include friends, family, or support groups. By connecting with others who have similar experiences, neurodivergent people can feel less isolated and more understood.
Shame can be a major barrier for neurodivergent individuals, but it's not something they have to live with forever. By focusing on acceptance and developing self-compassion, they can move past their feelings of shame and embrace their unique strengths and challenges.
If you are interested in exploring some of these topics in therapy, please visit the contact page to book a free 15-minute consultation.