What is a neurological condition?

A neurological condition is any condition that affects the brain, spinal cord or nervous system.

Many are well-known, such as strokedementiacluster headaches and ADHD

There are also hundreds of conditions that only affect an unlucky few, such as trigeminal neuralgiaAlice in Wonderland Syndrome and Huntington’s disease.

Some neurological conditions can begin suddenly, such as brain injury. Some you are born with, such as epilepsy. Others, like multiple sclerosis, can develop over time.

Neurological conditions are more common than you’d think

Neurological conditions affect 1 in 6 people in the UK. Here are some statistics:

  • Every year 600,000 people are newly diagnosed with a neurological condition; they cause 25% of all disabilities in this country.
  • More than 10 million people in the UK live with a neurological condition which has a significant impact on their lives.
  • At least 1 million people (2% of the UK population) are disabled by their neurological condition.
  • Approximately 850,000 people in the UK care for someone with a neurological condition.

Neurological conditions and neurodiversity/neurodivergence

Some people’s brains simply work in a different way.

For at least 20% of the UK’s adult population, these differences mean they are not seen as ‘neurotypical’ and may be diagnosed with specific neurological conditions such as autism spectrum condition (ASC)dyslexiaattention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, dyscalculia and Tourette syndrome.

In the 1990s, a term was coined to describe these differences: neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is the concept that brain differences are natural variations – not deficits, disorders or impairments.

More recently, the word neurodivergent has been used by the neurodiversity movement as an opposite to neurotypical.

The terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence are now used to describe all people whose neurological conditions mean they do not consider themselves to be neurotypical.

The label neurotypical is used by neurodivergent people and the neurodiversity community to refer to anyone who does not have a neurological condition – particularly such as autismADHD and dyslexia.

What is the difference between a neurological condition and a mental illness?

Neurological conditions are not the same as mental health conditions. However, neurological disorders can cause problems with things like memory and thinking.

The Neurological Alliance estimates more than half of all neurological patients also have mental health conditions.

Diagnosis with a neurological condition means you are twice as likely to have depression or anxiety compared to the general population. You are also twice as likely to take your own life.

For this reason, The Brain Charity offers free mental health services like counselling and phone befriending to people who have both a neurological condition and a mental illness.