The Little-Known Disorder That Chris Rock Lives With

A handful of celebrities have been vocal about their experiences living with various learning disabilities, in hopes of helping others walking the same path.

Keira Knightley once talked about having been diagnosed with dyslexia when she was a child. "Dyslexia is like a wall ... it's very difficult to see over it," she told BBC in 2012, adding that acting had helped her cope because she had no choice but to read her lines. She also said that having such a disability "doesn't mean that you're stupid," and instead means that "you work in a different way." Steven Spielberg struggled with the same condition as a child and had been on the receiving end of bullying by his peers. Luckily, he had movies as his outlet. "Movies really helped me, kind of saved me from shame, from guilt, from putting it on myself," he shared with ABC News. "I think making movies was my great escape, it was how I could get away from all that."

Some might not know Chris Rock has also been diagnosed with a learning disorder. But unlike Knightley and Spielberg, he only found out well into adulthood.

Chris Rock was diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disorder

It was only in 2020 when Chris Rock learned he had been diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD). Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Rock explained he had undergone multiple cognitive tests, which led to doctors diagnosing him with the condition. He explained that it's difficult for him to understand non-verbal signals, making it challenging to relate to people, as 80% of communication is nonverbal. "And all I understand are the words," he told the publication.

Rock also shared that his condition has benefitted him in his career. "All of those things are really great for writing jokes — they're just not great for one-on-one relationships," he said. Rock added that he used to downplay the way other people treated him as a result of fame. "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."

But his key problem with having such a disorder is how it adversely affected his relationships. "Even with my family, women I dated — it was always something a little off," he told Extra.

Chris Rock has learned how to cope with NVLD

Since finding out he has a nonverbal learning disorder, Chris Rock has been introduced to resources that help him in his everyday life. "Being diagnosed with it has put me in a position [where] I have doctors, I got certain medicines and stuff that help me deal with it," he shared with Extra. "Everything is easier once you're diagnosed."

In an appearance on The View, Rock explained that having access to these tools has resulted in a change in his general behavior. "I used to have a squirrel-like energy ... You can't sneak up on a squirrel, it's always alert, he's scared all the time," he said. "And that's gone. I'm much more relaxed now."

It was also through therapy that he realized wasn't alone. "We live in this world where everybody wants to be so self-made, " he told Extra. "And what happens is we shut ourselves off to people, we don't ask for help for a lot of things we need help for." These days, however, Rock seeks help from two therapists and participates in group therapy — all of which has helped him learn that "if you can talk to people ... everything will be better."