Neurodiversity Is Supernatural
A real-world atypical neurological condition, most often autism or schizophrenia, is presented as the result of or the presence of something supernatural. Bonus points if it doesn't occur naturally at all in the fictional universe.
Strange conditions spark the imaginations of writers, leading them to imagine otherworldly forces behind them. Just as Most Writers Are Male
, so are most writers neurotypical. Though non-NT writers are by no means unknown and they might use this trope as well for various reasons.
In some uses of this trope, all
cases of a particular neurological or psychiatric condition are the result of supernatural circumstances, and you can't have one without the other. Other times, a given condition can
be caused by something supernatural, but the same condition can also develop without the involvement of the paranormal. For example, in Percy Jackson and the Olympians
, being a demigod isn't the only
cause of dyslexia and/or ADHD.
This trope can potentially overlap with Go Mad from the Revelation
, if a character ceases to be neurotypical as the result of tangling with the supernatural or learning Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
. However, most of the time their condition is played as a side effect of an ongoing supernatural connection instead.
Can overlap with The Soulless
in regard to sociopathy
. See also Mad Oracle
and By the Eyes of the Blind
. If the character gets something useful out of their supernatural connection, it's also a case of Disability Superpower
- In Dexter in the Dark, all sociopaths are possessed by beings implied to be the children of Satan.
- In Harry Potter, the Dementors are evil creatures connected with depression, and it's implied that they cause it in Muggles, who don't see magical things and attribute it to scientific causes.
- In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, demigodhood correlates strongly with dyslexia and ADHD (though they can both occur in mortals). The latter is due to being wired for adventure and battle rather than schoolwork and officework, and the former is due to demigod brains being wired for ancient Greek.
- In A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane, Darryl becomes autistic in an attempt to withdraw from the sensations of being malignantly observed by the Lone Power. It's portrayed very differently from the experiences of real-world autistics, though it looks similar from the outside. In which case it's subverted in that it's not really autism, just resembles it from the outside.
- In Wicked, it's implied that a lot of Elphaba's oddities are a result of her being a "child of both worlds", which also comes with immense natural magical talent.
- In Everworld, Senna believes that crazy people are at least partially aware of supernatural things, much like witches like her. They can also hear her when she's using Astral Projection, while talking to normal people requires the more taxing effort of creating an illusionary form.
- While it's nigh-impossible to be sure of anything in a Philip K. Dick story, some of them imply an extraterrestrial or sci-fi origin for schizophrenia and psychosis. Although he has N-Word Privileges here - he had a full-blown schizophrenic breakdown in the late 70s, and the warning signs were there starting from about the time Time Out Of Joint came out.
- In Gillian Anderson's A Vision of Fire, Arni's synesthesia is presented as a link between human and animal brains, giving him the Mysterious Animal Senses necessary to access the transpersonal plane.
- In Peter Watt's Blindsight autistics and psychopaths are descended from vampires. Which were a Human Subspecies that had a deficiency in a protein found only in humans and evolved several traits to prey on them. Such as a complete Lack of Empathy and super-savant mathematical abilities. However, their hyper-savantism caused them to develop seizures when they saw right-angles, and they died out millennia ago. Until a biotech company experimented with gene therapy "cures" for autism and psychopathy and accidentally turned them into vampires.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel:
- Both shows generally portray soullessness as being sociopathy to the extent that an early Angel episode implies normal human sociopaths are people born without souls.
- In Buffy, season 5 Big Bad Glory feeds off people's sanity and makes them insane. The terms are kept vague, but the results resemble schizophrenia.
- Doctor Who:
- There appears to be a link between Vincent van Gogh's madness/depression, and his ability to see invisible aliens. Which one causes which is somewhat unclear, though.
- "In the Forest of the Night" features the cute-as-a-button little girl Maebh, who can hear voices that turn out to be some kind of sci-fi fairies.
- Eli Stone:
- The whole premise of the show is that Eli's brain tumor means that he's a prophet and that his hallucinations are visions sent from God to instruct him.
- In the first episode, the strange actions of an autistic child are a way God communicates with Eli. It's not one of Eli's hallucinations; God is behind the unfathomable actions of an autistic child, linking autism with the supernatural and treating the child as more a part of nature than a human being with agency.
- In Eureka, Kevin's autism is the result of a mysterious supernatural force never quite explained. Kevin is eventually able to cure his autism by figuring out how to time travel and changing events so that the force never affects him.
- Heroes presents synesthesia as a superpower. Though the power is later shown to be more of an ability to manipulate sound, its introduction has it as simply sound-to-color synesthesia.
- The sixth season of Supernatural had Sam missing his soul, which was treated as sociopathy. Dean's reference to Dexter in describing him implies there are natural sociopaths, though.
- In The X-Files:
- In the episode "Fallen Angel", it's implied that aliens are responsible for Max's epilepsy.
- In "E.B.E.", Mulder suggests that Gulf War syndrome is the result of alien encounters.
- In Touch, Martin's son Jake appears autistic (though the doctors never could diagnose his disorder). He also has the ability to see complex connections between different people in the world and tell his father how to use those connections to help people.
- All Alphas have some kind of mental or physical disability to accompany their abilities. Gary for instance is autistic and able to sense and translate radio waves, he's also immune to Nina's Compelling Voice because his brain is too "rigid".
- One episode gets pretty explicit about it, with a manifesto video by the Alpha terrorist group Red Flag talking about "the recognition of true neurodiversity."
- An episode of Sanctuary plays with and subverts this when it features an autistic boy with a supernatural power and at the end brings in his neurotypical brother with the same power, showing that the power is unconnected to his autism.
- Game of Thrones has Jojen Reed, a teenager who can see the future, but has bouts of what can be clearly identified as Epilepsy to a modern audience. According to his sister, his epilepsy is a direct effect of his powers.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: If a human child fails to become a wereraven (because their magical spirit egg was stolen before their first transformation) they tend to become autistic suddenly (despite autism spectrum disorders being congenital in real life).
- Kult: Schizophrenia is actually the ability to see behind the veil covering mundane reality. Mental illness in general is one of two roads to supernatural mojo (sainthood is the other one, but power-wise they're mutually exclusive).
- Mutant City Blues: Mutants with force field powers have a significant chance of developing adult-onset autism.
- In Dragon Age II, Hawke and company come across a man who swears he hears demons telling him to harm people, but the Chantry and your own resident mages agree that he's not possessed. While Hawke is certain he's just making the voices up as an excuse, the savvy player will realize he's likely suffering schizophrenia instead, and in a world where demonic possession is a very common occurrence, no one believes there are any other sources for voices that simply aren't there.
- Many of the symptoms of Possession in Crusader Kings and its sequel resemble those of certain real-world mental illnesses like schizophrenia, meaning that it's possible many of these instances are simply dysfunctional people in a world that views them through a supernatural lens.
- Last Res0rt has a place on the soul spectrum for Light Children, who are born with just a little more / less soul than the average person (Sterlings). It's not that this causes things like Autism or Schizophrenia — rather, they happen because the Light Child hasn't been trained properly (compared to the Celeste) to deal with their new powers and sensory abilities. It's implied that with proper training, these individuals can leap right into Disability Superpower territory.
- Murray, the werewolf main character of ''Bloody Urban',' suffers from sensory processing disorder as a result of having hyper-acute senses and an inability to filter out sounds and smells beyond normal human perception.
- Some people involved with the New Age belief system believe children with autism, ADHD, and other disorders are indigo children, children with indigo auras sent to heal the world.
- For much of history, before the advent of modern psychology, many cultures believed that Demonic Possession caused epilepsy and other mental disorders. Though notably, Catholic exorcists didn't believe this and still don't. They always sent you to a doctor first. If the doctor was stumped, or their diagnosis appeared to be wrong or their treatment didn't seem to be working, then they might consider exorcism.
- In the ancient world, epilepsy was sometimes seen as being a sign of greatness of one touched by the gods. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were both considered such. The seizures were sometimes linked with divine prophecies.
- Among the Hmong people epileptics are believed to act as an intermediary between the spirit and material world and so they are often made into shamans. The book "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" chronicles how one Hmong family in California ran into issues with the medical establishment when they attempted to treat their daughter.