Chris Rock is opening up about being diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disorder as an adult and his decision to dive deep into childhood trauma with intensive therapy. The comedian, 55, revealed in a new cover story for The Hollywood Reporter he first sought help after a friend suggested he may have Asperger's.
After nine hours of cognitive testing, the actor received a nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD) diagnosis, which means he has challenges interpreting nonverbal signals in social situations. With some 80% of communication being nonverbal, it has led to difficulties in personal relationships over the years. "And all I understand are the words," Rock said of often interpreting things at a base literal level. "By the way, all of those things are really great for writing jokes — they’re just not great for one-on-one relationships."
"I’d always just chalked it up to being famous," he said of the problems it would cause in his personal life. "Any time someone would respond to me in a negative way, I’d think, 'Whatever, they’re responding to something that has to do with who they think I am.' Now, I’m realizing it was me. A lot of it was me."
The Top Five actor now goes to therapy for seven hours a week, where he is also working on processing childhood trauma. While he has often joked about his tough childhood, even writing Everybody Hates Chris about his experiences, Rock said he hasn't really worked through it emotionally. "I thought I was actually dealing with it, and the reality is I never dealt with it," he told the magazine. "The reality was the pain and the fear that that brought me, I was experiencing it every day."
Rock has also been learning how to swim, joking, "Do you know how f—ing hard it is for a grownup to learn how to swim? You’ve got to not be scared to die. The other day, this guy says to me, 'OK, you’re going to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side,' and I’m like, 'Are you f—ing crazy?'" He added that the physical journey has mirrored his emotional journey in many ways, "But then I dove into the deep end and I swam to the other side, and it’s a metaphor for what I’ve been trying to do during this time.'"