Chris Rock reveals learning disorder diagnosis, says he has 7 hours of therapy a week

The comedian has been tackling his diagnosis and unpacking childhood struggles in weekly therapy.
Chris Rock
Chris Rock attends the FX Networks' Star Walk Winter Press Tour 2020 on Jan. 9, 2020, in Pasadena, California.Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Chris Rock is getting candid about being diagnosed with a learning disorder as an adult.

The 55-year-old comedian opened up to The Hollywood Reporter last week about his nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD) and how it's affected his day-to-day life.

Rock has been doing seven hours of therapy a week since a friend suggested that he may have Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum with generally higher functioning. The actor went through nine hours of cognitive tests and was eventually diagnosed with NVLD, which makes it difficult for him to understand nonverbal signals.

"All I understand are the words," he said.

He explained that he can take things "too literally" and has an "all-or-nothing thinking," as The Hollywood Reporter described it.

"By the way, all of those things are really great for writing jokes — they’re just not great for one-on-one relationships," he added. "I’d always just chalked it up to being famous. 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."

What is non-verbal learning disability (NLD or NVLD)?

"Kids with NLD are very verbal, and may not have academic problems until they get into the upper grades in school," explains the University of Michigan.

"Often their biggest problem is with social skills. NLD is very like Asperger Syndrome. It may be that the diagnoses of Asperger syndrome (AS) and NLD simply 'provide different perspectives on a heterogeneous, yet overlapping, group of individuals sharing at least some common aspects.'"

Through therapy, Rock has been unfurling and understanding his childhood trauma alongside the new diagnosis.

"I thought I was actually dealing with it, and the reality is I never dealt with it," he said, acknowledging that being able to laugh about his childhood didn't necessarily mean he was over it. "The reality was the pain and the fear that that brought me, I was experiencing it every day."

Rock has also introduced a new activity to his workout routine: swimming. The Emmy winner is putting his previously unused pool to good use to boost his new fitness regimen.

"Do you know how f---ing hard it is for a grown-up to learn how to swim? You’ve got to not be scared to die," he said. "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?' 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."