The comedian, 55, said he was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder this year, which he said is "not great for one-on-one relationships" in his case

By Benjamin VanHoose
September 18, 2020 11:14 AM
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Chris Rock
| Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty

Chris Rock is opening up about being diagnosed with a learning disorder as an adult.

In a new cover story for The Hollywood Reporter, the 55-year-old Top Five actor revealed that he, after a nine-hour series of cognitive tests this year, was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD). Rock said the condition means he has challenges interpreting nonverbal signals in social situations.

"And all I understand are the words," he said of frequently understanding things in their most literal meanings, which he said helps with his comedy. "By the way, all of those things are really great for writing jokes — they’re just not great for one-on-one relationships."

Rock said for most of his life, he wrote off his condition, not fully understanding how it affected his daily life.

"I’d always just chalked it up to being famous," he said. "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 star now commits to seven hours of therapy a week, when he's also working on processing childhood traumas, as well.

"I thought I was actually dealing with it, and the reality is I never dealt with it," said the comedian. "The reality was the pain and the fear that that brought me, I was experiencing it every day."

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Rock also told THR about learning to swim for the first time as an adult. "Do you know how f------ hard it is for a grownup to learn how to swim? You’ve got to not be scared to die," he said. "The other day, this guy says to me, 'Okay, you’re going to dive into the deep end and swim to the other side,' and I’m like, 'Are you f------ 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," added Rock.

In 2018, Rock's brother Tony Rock reflected on their childhood, recalling to PEOPLE what led to the siblings pursuing comedy careers and what advice Chris gave him.

“When you have that many siblings, it’s great for your development because you have a bunch of people to bounce ideas off of.” Tony said at the time. “We weren’t rich by any means, but we had each other, so we were rich in family. When you don’t have a lot, it just fuels that creativity. So it manifested in us doing characters of people in the neighborhood or doing impersonations of Mom and Dad. The comedy bug, it takes over.”

“Chris is pretty much, ‘We gotta do it on our own,’” Tony added. “He’s just as quiet with us as he is with the rest of the world.”

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.