Recognizing Someone Close To You Might Be Neurodivergent

Recognizing that your partner may be neurodivergent is a journey marked by subtle observations, nuanced understanding, and open communication. Often, the realization dawns when certain behavioral patterns or communication styles deviate significantly from societal norms. It could be a partner who struggles with sensory sensitivities, exhibits repetitive behaviors, or faces challenges in social interactions. This might be a shock, but observing these unique traits can lead you to consider neurodivergence as a potential factor.

Delicate Conversations

The confirmation of neurodivergence often involves delicate conversations. It may begin with gentle inquiries about personal experiences, preferences, and challenges. Sharing educational resources on neurodivergence can foster understanding and encourage your the neurodivergent individual to explore the possibility further. Seeking professional guidance, such as consulting with psychologists or neurodiversity specialists, can provide clarity and a formal diagnosis if needed. This process should be approached with empathy, emphasizing support rather than pathologizing differences.

Handling the realization that your partner, child or someone close to you are neurodivergent requires patience, compassion, and open-mindedness. Understanding that neurodivergence is a natural and valid aspect of human diversity is crucial. Communication becomes paramount—discussing each other’s needs, preferences, and potential challenges can strengthen the relationship. Acknowledge and celebrate the strengths that often accompany neurodivergence, recognizing the unique perspectives and talents to the relationship.

Expect that navigating neurodivergence within a relationship may involve adapting communication styles, and being mindful of sensory sensitivities, and finding common ground in terms of shared activities, will help a lot.  A commitment to learning and growing together is fundamental. It’s important to recognize that everyone, neurodivergent or not, has their own set of strengths and challenges, and relationships thrive on mutual understanding and acceptance.

Best Recourse

Recourse to better the situation involves ongoing education, both individually and as a couple or family about neurodivergence. Attend workshops, read literature, and engage with neurodivergent communities to gain insights and tools for navigating your unique relationship. Seeking the assistance of relationship counselors or therapists experienced in neurodivergent dynamics can provide tailored strategies for enhancing communication and connection.

Ultimately, recognizing and embracing neurodivergence within a relationship is an opportunity for growth, understanding, and deeper connection. It involves a commitment to mutual support, continuous learning, and an appreciation of the richness that neurodiversity brings to the tapestry of your partnership. With love, patience, and a willingness to adapt, navigating a neurodivergent relationship can lead to a stronger, more resilient connection built on the foundation of acceptance and understanding.

Lack of synaptic pruning in the neurodivergent brain

Scientists still haven’t pinpointed the exact cause of autism. It’s likely that there are multiple factors at play, but recently, research has shown a link between mutations in certain genes related to synaptic function and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Being neurodivergent (autistic) means having a brain that works differently from the average or “neurotypical” person. This may be differences in social preferences, ways of learning, ways of communicating and/or ways of perceiving the environment. A newly published brain-tissue study suggests that neurodivergent children have a surplus of synapses, or connections between brain cells. The excess is due to a slowdown in the normal pruning process that occurs during brain development, the researchers say.

Many genes linked to autism are known to affect the development or function of brain synapses. Indeed, the idea that individuals with autism have excess synapses has been proposed before.

During normal brain development, a burst of synapse formation occurs in infancy. This is particularly pronounced in the cortex, which is central to thought and processing information from the senses. But by late adolescence, pruning eliminates about half of these cortical synapses. All brains start with more connections than they need. The unusually large number in dendritic spines in children with autism may result from deficient pruning early in childhood. Alternatively, the typical pruning process may be overwhelmed by an unusually large number of neuronal connections in the amygdala.

To test this hypothesis, Columbia researcher Guomei Tang analyzed brain tissue from 26 children and young adults affected by autism. Thirteen of the children were between the ages of 2 and 9 when they died. Thirteen were between 13 to 20. For comparison, she also examined donated postmortem brain tissue from 22 children and teens who did not have autism.

Dr. Tang measured the abundance of synapses in a small section of cortical tissue from each brain. She found that, by late childhood, the density had dropped by about half in the brain tissue unaffected by autism. By contrast, it was reduced by around 16 percent in the brains from individuals who had autism.

She also found clues to what may have caused the lack of pruning. The brain cells from the individuals with autism were filled with damaged parts and deficient in signs of a normal breakdown pathway called “autophagy.” Cells use autophagy (Greek for “self-eating”) to breakdown components – include synapse connections.

Autophagy allows your body to break down and reuse old cell parts so your cells can operate more efficiently. It’s a natural cleaning out process that begins when your cells are stressed or deprived of nutrients. Researchers are studying autophagy’s role in potentially preventing and fighting disease.

Autophagy is not only the main process in the synaptic pruning function, but it also participates in maintaining the long‐term memory function. Autophagy is a self-cleaning mechanism within our cells, which helps your brain detoxify, repair and regenerate itself. It destroys the old, damaged, and malfunctioning components of your cells – and rebuilds new and healthier ones instead! Early synaptic pruning is mostly influenced by our genes. Later on, it’s based on our experiences. In other words, whether or not a synapse is pruned is influenced by the experiences a developing child has with the world around them. Constant stimulation causes synapses to grow and become permanent. But if a child receives little stimulation the brain will keep fewer of those connections.

Because large amounts of overactive mTOR were also found in almost all of the brains of the autism patients, the same processes may occur in children with autism. “What’s remarkable about the findings,” said Dr. Sulzer, “is that hundreds of genes have been linked to autism, but almost all of our human subjects had overactive mTOR and decreased autophagy, and all appear to have a lack of normal synaptic pruning. This says that many, perhaps the majority, of genes may converge onto this mTOR/autophagy pathway, the same way that many tributaries all lead into the Mississippi River. Overactive mTOR and reduced autophagy, by blocking normal synaptic pruning that may underlie learning appropriate behavior, may be a unifying feature of autism.”

The role of mTOR in Autism is involved in various neurodevelopmental processes, including neuronal differentiation, axon guidance, cell migration, and neural region patterning

A drug that restores normal synaptic pruning can improve autistic-like behaviors in mice, the researchers found, even when the drug is given after the behaviors have appeared. “This is an important finding that could lead to a novel and much-needed therapeutic strategy for autism,” said Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at CUMC and director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, who was not involved in the study.

Although the drug, rapamycin, has side effects that may preclude its use in people with autism, “the fact that we can see changes in behavior suggests that autism may still be treatable after a child is diagnosed, if we can find a better drug,” said the study’s senior investigator, David Sulzer, PhD, professor of neurobiology in the Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pharmacology at CUMC.

It is possible that screening for mTOR and autophagic activity will provide a means to diagnose some features of autism, and normalizing these pathways might help to treat synaptic dysfunction and treat the disease.



“Neurodiversity” is a word used to explain the unique ways people’s brains work. While everyone’s brain develops similarly, no two brains function just alike. Being neurodivergent means having a brain that works differently from the average or “neurotypical” person. This may be differences in ways of communicating and/or ways of perceiving the environment. Because of this, a neurodivergent person has different struggles and unique strengths.  


The paper is titled, Loss of mTOR-dependent macroautophagy causes autistic-like synaptic pruning deficits. Other authors are: Kathryn Gudsnuk, Sheng-Han Kuo, Marisa L. Cotrina, Gorazd Rosoklija, AlexanderSosunov, Mark S. Sonders, Ellen Kanter, Candace Castagna, Ai Yamamoto, OttavioArancio, Bradley S. Peterson, Frances Champagne, Andrew J. Dwork, and James Goldman from CUMC; and Zhenyu Yue (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai). Marisa Cotrina is now at the University of Rochester. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Being Self-aware or NOT?


Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that involve long-lasting, disruptive patterns of thinking, behavior, mood and relating to others.
People with personality disorders often don’t realize their thoughts and behaviors are problematic. Self-awareness is arguably the most fundamental issue in psychology, from both a developmental and an evolutionary perspective. It allows us to see things from the perspective of others, practice self-control, work creatively and productively, and experience pride in ourselves and our work as well as general self-esteem (Silvia & O’Brien, 2004). It leads to better decision making (Ridley, Schutz, Glanz, & Weinstein, 1992).

It is one of the first components of the self-concept to emerge. People are not born completely self-aware. Yet evidence suggests that infants do have a rudimentary sense of self-awareness. Being self-aware all the time is hard. In fact, there are many human flaws – or cognitive biases – that keep us from making rational decisions. It’s these human biases that cause a lack of self-awareness. 

“Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards.”

Internal self-awareness, represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. External self-awareness, means understanding how other people view us. When it comes to internal and external self-awareness, it’s tempting to value one over the other. The bottom line is that self-awareness isn’t one truth. It’s a delicate balance of two distinct, even competing, viewpoints.

Self-awareness is a crucial skill to have when it comes to being a kind, compassionate and happy person. However, most humans are prone to do things or make decisions that don’t seem self-aware at all.

Disorders of self-awareness frequently follow frontal lobe damage. Patients with bilateral lesions of the premotor cortex often have poor self-awareness and finger tap slowly. Patients with orbitofrontal lesions also may have impaired self-awareness, but their speed of finger tapping is normal.

Although most people believe that they are self-aware, true self-awareness is a rare quality. Self-awareness seems to have become the latest management buzzword — and for good reason. Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more-effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.

  • Bodily self-awareness. T
  • Social self-awareness.
  • Introspective self-awareness.

There are 4 keys to self-awareness – being intentional, thinking differently, building skills, and changing your context – can make a vital difference in moving from passive self-awareness to dynamic action.

What disorder lacks self-awareness?

Individuals who have signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder have one major thing in common, a lack of self-awareness. 
Why is self-awareness so important?
Being self-aware gives us the ability to end negative unhealthy patterns. If you’re in a relationship with someone who seems to lack self-awareness, whether they have signs and symptoms of BPD or NPD, we need to get to the core of the issues. When someone is lacking self-awareness, it will contribute to arguments within the relationship. A person who lacks self-awareness doesn’t have the ability to fully see how their actions and attitude affects another person. When we look closely into an unhealthy relationship, we find a lack of self-awareness.
Lack of insight also typically causes a person to avoid treatment. When someone rejects a diagnosis of mental illness, it’s tempting to say that he’s “in denial.” But someone with acute mental illness may not be thinking clearly enough to consciously choose denial. They may instead be experiencing “lack of insight” or “lack of awareness.” The formal medical term for this medical condition is anosognosia, from the Greek meaning “to not know a disease.”

It is also widely assumed that introspection — examining the causes of our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors — improves self-awareness. After all, what better way to know ourselves than by reflecting on why we are the way we are?

We need to be sure we are self-aware and apply it to ourselves in order to be more successful in every aspect of our lives. Self-awareness is key to mindfulness and understanding one’s self fully. Cultivating self-awareness requires an introspective approach, a system and a process to actively and consciously engage in the recognition of ourselves as an individual. This means focusing on all of our being — our beliefs (open or limiting), our physical state of health, our mental state of health, our spiritual state of health and more. It is an acceptance of all the good parts of ourselves and the areas that need improvement. It’s about who we are and what we do daily in each moment.




Self control, emotions and the ability to control your reactions

Learning self-control is one of the most important parts of growing up, right? We’re always trying to teach our kids how important it is not to let their feelings get the best of them. A lot of the time, though, when we try to reinforce self-control, we’re actually missing an opportunity to teach something much more important: self-regulation.

Self-regulation can play an important role in relationships, well-being, and overall success in life. People who can manage their emotions and control their behavior are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and achieve their goals.

Gottfredson and Hirschi define self-control as the differential tendency of individuals to avoid criminal acts independent of the situations in which they find themselves. Individuals who lack self-control tend to be impulsive, insensitive, nonverbal, short- sighted, and quick to anger. Those with low self-control are likely to pursue risky behaviors without considering the potential long-term consequences of their actions. So what then is the differences between self-control and self-regulation. Emotion regulation is the ability to exert control over one’s own emotional state. It may involve behaviors such as rethinking a challenging situation to reduce anger or anxiety, hiding visible signs of sadness or fear, or focusing on reasons to feel happy or calm.

Self-control is all about inhibiting impulses and emotions; self-regulation focuses on reducing both the intensity and frequency of those impulses.

It is important to understand that children are not born with emotion regulation capabilities. An infant is biologically immature and is therefore physically incapable of soothing himself during times of upset. This is why a nurturing relationship with a caregiver is so important to the healthy emotional development of a child. As the child grows, he or she learns emotion regulation skills from parents and other important adults such as teachers or close relatives. For example, the child may be taught helpful ways to think about problems rather than become overwhelmed when facing an emotional challenge.

A traumatised parent who is unable to control their own emotions is unlikely to have the ability to help their child. In some cases, the traumatised parent may escalate the child’s distress with angry or fearful reactions to the child’s problems. In these cases, the child does not have the opportunity to learn valuable emotion regulation skills while growing up. It can also be associated with an experience of early psychological trauma, brain injury, or chronic maltreatment (such as child abuse, child neglect, or institutional neglect/abuse), and associated disorders such as reactive attachment disorder.

Where does emotional dysregulation come from?
Some causes can be 
early childhood trauma, child neglect, and traumatic brain injury. Individuals can have biological predispositions for emotional reactivity that can be exasperated by chronic low levels of invalidation in their environments resulting in emotional dysregulation. People with a borderline personality disorder often experience emotional dysregulation and have greater emotional sensitivity, emotional reactivity, and difficulty returning to a baseline emotional level that feels stable.
Emotional dysregulation refers to the inability of a person to control or regulate their emotional responses to provocative stimuli. It should be noted that all of us can become dysregulated when triggered.

Symptoms of Emotional Deregulation:

  • Severe depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • High levels of shame and anger.
  • Self-harm.
  • Excessive substance use.
  • High-risk sexual behaviors.
  • Extreme perfectionism.
  • Highly conflictual interpersonal relationships.
  • Lying is really rooted in emotional dysregulation

The Difficulties lies in measuring emotion regulation when it comes to your personal responses. Following the measuring criteria’s to determine your ability to regulating your emotions:

  1. Nonacceptance of emotional responses
  2. Difficulty engaging in goal-directed behaviour
  3. Impulse control difficulties
  4. Lack of emotional awareness
  5. Limited access to emotion regulation strategies
  6. Lack of emotional clarity

Emotion Dysregulation may be thought of as the inability to manage the intensity and duration of negative emotions such as fear, sadness, or anger. If you are struggling with emotion regulation, an upsetting situation will bring about strongly felt emotions that are difficult to recover from. The effects of a prolonged negative emotion may be physically, emotionally, and behaviorally intense.

What is an example of emotional regulation? 

For example, an argument with a friend or family member may cause an over-reaction that significantly impacts your life. You can’t stop thinking about it or you may lose sleep over it. Even though on a rational level you feel it’s time to let it go, you are powerless to control how you feel. You may escalate a conflict to the point it is difficult to repair, or you may indulge in substances to help yourself feel better, thus creating further stress for yourself and others.

What are the 5 emotion regulation strategies?

The five strategies (see also Gross, Sheppes and Urry, 2011 – research which inspired this list) are as follows:

  • Manage the chimp (or ’emotion interrupt’) …
  • Suppress, mask or squash the emotion. …
  • Redirect your attention. …
  • Reframe what is going on positively. …
  • Change the context
How do I teach myself to be emotionally regulated?
There are a number of skills that can help us self-regulate our emotions.
  1. Create space. Emotions happen fast. …
  2. Noticing what you feel. …
  3. Naming what you feel. …
  4. Accepting the emotion. …
  5. Practicing mindfulness. …
  6. Identify and reduce triggers. …
  7. Tune into physical symptoms. …
  8. Consider the story you are telling yourself.
What are the 4 types of self-regulation?
Four major types of self-regulation strategies are:
  • Self-monitoring (also called self-assessment or self-recording)
  • Self-instruction (also called self-talk)
  • Goal-setting.
  • Self-reinforcement.

How do you fix emotional dysregulation? 

One of the most effective methods of treating emotional dysregulation is dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy in which patients are taught skills and strategies for managing emotions, handling conflict, and building tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. It is common for those suffering with emotion dysregulation to experience difficulty with interpersonal relationships. Extreme emotional reactions and difficulty resolving conflicts, adds stress on personal and professional relationships. Given that successful emotion regulation is a key aspect of personal well-being, difficulties in emotion regulation are theorised to be a transdiagnostic risk for the onset and maintenance across psychopathologies.

Emotion regulation is essential for healthy functioning.

What is severe emotional dysregulation?

Emotional dysregulation means that an individual has difficulty regulating their emotions. They may feel overwhelmed, have difficulties controlling impulsive behaviors, or have angry outbursts. These intense responses can cause trouble with relationships, work, school, and daily life.

Emotional dysregulation refers to difficulty in regulating emotions. It can manifest in several ways, such as feeling overwhelmed by seemingly minor things, struggling to control impulsive behaviors, or having unpredictable outbursts.

There are many different types of emotional dysregulation, and each person’s experience is unique. Typically, emotional dysregulation means an individual has excessively intense emotions in response to a trigger. Therefore, an individual may feel their emotions are out of control. They may also have difficulties recognizing their emotions and feel confused, guilty, or stressed about their behavior.

If you feel that you do not have the coping skills and think this may be something you need to explore in your journey to being mentally stable and emotionally aware of your impact on relationships in your world.  Kindly contact Christel Maritz. She is a psychologist (clinical psychologist) operating from her Somerset West Office in Somerset West.

Follow by Email