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Stop Neurosplaining!

2018 was the year the word mansplain became an official part of the English language. In January, the Oxford English Dictionary announced that they were adding mansplain to their list of words. Soon after, Merriam-Webster moved the word off their watchlist.

OED defines mansplaining as follows:

(of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing

It occurred to me that people with conditions like ADHD are familiar with a similar phenomenon: neurosplaining.

MansplainingNeurosplaining happens when “neurotypical” people who don’t have any mental health conditions try to explain mental health to people who do have mental health conditions.

For people with ADHD, that could mean telling them that they just need to use such-and-such organizational strategy, or to focus more, or to start putting in more of an effort, and it’ll solve their problems. It might even mean trying to explain to them that ADHD doesn’t exist or that “everyone has that sometimes.”

People with pretty much any mental health condition, learning disability, or otherwise non-typical brain can experience neurosplaining. Two sure signs that someone is neurosplaining to you are (1) that they try to propose trivial solutions to mental health conditions (2) that they dismiss your mental health condition.

As with other types of “splaining,” a major problem with neurosplaining is the refusal to listen on the part of the explainer. They fail to acknowledge that the person they’re imparting their pearls of wisdom to has experiences that they themselves aren’t familiar with. So the person who has no knowledge of mental health ends up explaining mental health to the person who actually lives with a mental health condition.

Sometimes neurosplaining comes from a place of misguided good intention, like when people confidently suggest simple solutions to your mental health condition. Other times, it just comes from a place of wanting to seem like the most authoritative person in the room, even on topics the neurosplainer has no understanding of.

In either case, it’s annoying, and the advice the neurosplainer offers so proudly is inevitably something we’ve heard a thousand times before. Fortunately, the cure to neurosplaining isn’t so hard: when other people talk to you about challenges they have that you haven’t personally encountered, you don’t have to offer solutions or tell them that their challenges aren’t a big deal – feel free to just listen!

Stop Neurosplaining!

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). Stop Neurosplaining!. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 30 Aug 2018
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