Mental Health and Learning Disabilities: Why a Higher Risk?

Young girl hiding behind tree isolated from classmates or friendsThere are certain aspects of learning disabilities which increase the risk for an individual to experience mental health issues. Failure to identify a learning disability at an early age and to consequently delay the provision of intensive, individualized instruction results in school failure. A child who was well-adjusted as a five- or six-year-old can acquire overlays of emotional disturbance after years of school failure. Anxiety and depression would be likely experiences for such a child from the age of nine or ten.

Certain specific learning disabilities are characterized by perceptual deficits, including misinterpretation of facial expression, body language, or verbal cues that lead to awkward social interactions. These, along with impulsivity associated with ADHD, contribute to generally poor social skills, which in turn lead to alienation or social conflict.

Individuals of all ages with learning disabilities and ADHD are subject to ridicule from peers and are often the objects of bullying behaviors. Low self-esteem is a frequent by-product of learning disabilities.

School failure leads to disassociation from school settings, and the adolescent and teen with learning disabilities who has not received proper academic supports and services runs a higher risk than average for becoming involved with tobacco, alcohol and drugs. School drop-out is linked strongly to functional illiteracy; teens who drop out are at high risk of becoming involved in illegal activities and eventual incarceration, and for becoming teen mothers and fathers. Teen addictions, aggressive and other anti-social behaviors, and risky pregnancies are therefore linked to learning disabilities and ADHD.

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  1. Hi my name is Nikki ,
    My life has been a series of ups and downs. School was hard for me and life and relationships were even harder I never learned to love and except myself until my young adult life. As a friend of mines death anniversary is coming up I’m self evauating my childhood and want to do what ever it takes to teach children to love and except themselves at a young age.

  2. Neal Jacobsen says

    Dear Janelle,
    I am a 64 years old man and have had a learning disability since I was 4. I also have epilepsy, diabetes, ed, and depression. My right eye is sensitive to sunlight and my right hand comes up to block the sunlight. The doctors say I have a “spell” when this happens and it lasts for about 1 1/2 seconds. This form of epilepsy sometimes comes along with a LD add on. I went through hell growing up and did very poorly in all grades in school. I almost drowned taking swimming lessons that was forced on me at 10 years old. Although I ended up being a network analyst I know exactly what you are talking about. I still have no self respect due to being put down my entire life. I drank heavily from 16 on to about age 40. I smoked cigarettes for 40 years, close to 2 packs a day. I quit 10 years ago.
    I love to read but don’t retain much of what I read. I have tried to take additional courses for computers but I know failure will be the outcome. I have been limited all my life and now I am ready to retire. If you want to, write to me.

  3. Jannette Venegas says

    How can I help my son with LD? My son graduated from HS with very low grades. He was lucky enough to be accepted at a college under a program in which he was taking very easy classes just to build a GPA. He transferred from that university to another larger Public University. I always knew that this change was not gonna work for him.My concern is that I am trying to help my son by giving him advises on how to get organize in order for him to pass his classes. I see him every three weeks since the university is 5 hours away, driving distance.He is in Mental Health treatment with a therapist and a psychiatry, but since he is already an adult I do not have any access to his information about how is he doing.I always feel guilty and is terrible for me not to be able to help. I tried to have a meeting with his college counselor who told me that my son was the only person he could see, that I cannot request special academic accommodations for him. That only my son can request that. I know how to help my son but it seems that since he became an adult all the doors are closed for me. Right now, from four classes he dropped two, and he didn’t pass another class, leading him with a 1.3 GPA for the past term. What can I do to help my son.

  4. I knew something was wrong with me & I just found out that they said that I was borderline Mentally Retarded at the age 5-6 but these days they call it a Learning Disability& I’m trying to read others stories of there life growing up & now I’m 46 and I went through hell with being a single parent & not knowing any homework to help my kids. it took me a long time to come out & tell my kids teachers that I have a LD it’s not that I didn’t want to help them it’s that I didn’t Understand Any of there homework & still to this day I feel like a Nobody & my feelings are always getting hurt & I care too much for people & I wish I was not like iam & im always trying to please people & I don’t know why I will NEVER be GOOD ENOUGH & I can’t keep a job or friends & I hate living on stress & daily anxiety so if anyone can relate to me PLEASE WRITE ME or if you have to say anything please do. Thanks so much

    • LDA of America says

      The more you know about yourself and your learning disability, the more confidence you’ll have, and less anxiety as well. If you have not had a complete evaluation done, you might consider doing that (see information at The process of evaluation will identify your strengths and your challenges, and the diagnostician can help you understand how to use your strengths and how to accommodate your challenges. Learning to be a good self-advocate is extremely important, whether at work or school or just interacting in daily life activities. You’re off to a great start by reading other people’s stories about growing up with LD. Add to that reading about what learning disabilities are and the more you know, the better you’ll feel about yourself. The bottom line is that people with learning disabilities are smart – you know you are because you’ve survived this long without any supports at all! If you get a current evaluation, you will have the legal right to request accommodations in the workplace and/or school, and that will help you succeed where you’ve struggled before. You might want to contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation office to help you find a job that is a good match for your strengths. There’s information about that agency at It may also be helpful to try and identify what YOU think your strengths are. A good starting question is, “What do you do well?” That may be a hard question to answer at first, especially if you don’t think of yourself as doing many things very well. What do you like to do in your spare time, and what skills are involved in that? Are you creative? Are you a good listener? Are you reliable? Do you tell interesting stories? Are you artistic? Do you know how to build and/or fix things? Are you a good cook?

      Once you determine some basic areas of strengths, it may also help to set some short-term goals (one or two weeks) that use those strengths to succeed. Longer-term goals can be set later.

      It may also be helpful to explore some of the new, affordable (or free!) assistive technology that will help you to function better with tasks that you have difficulty with due to your learning disability. There is a lot of information about assistive technology at

    • I understand you so much. Its hard to tell how u fill

    • I see a pattern! All my 4 siblings had learning disabilities. We had verbally abusive father and self absorbed, narcisit mother. Just finished book, “Will I ever be good enough,” by Karyl McBride. Book explains may women have low self-esteem because they were raised by narcisit mother. It’s not your fault! Please read book, “Nice girls just don’t get it.” This will help you tremendously! You’ve probably experienced lots of abuse, neglect. Majority of kids that go through trauma have learning disabilities!
      Madaline Cata

  5. I need help my adult brother now lives with me and he does not know how to pay bills banking or anything if he was to live on his own I need help and he is always angry with me I don’t know where to turn for help. Please help I’m stress and can not take anymore but I have to help him if something was to happen to me he would be loss.

    • LDA of America says

      Contact your local Adult Education program to see if they can help your brother learn basic life skills. If not, they may know of local community resources that teach life skills and provide counseling for adults who need the kinds of supports your brother may need. If the Adult Education program can’t help, try contacting your local Vocational Rehabilitation Services office to see if they can help or know of helpful resources in your area. You can find more about their services at

  6. That’s all fine information but what do we do as parents who have a child in High school who is L.D. has an 87 I.Q. has been diagnosed with multiple mental health issues ( is on medication) and is being bullied by having disparaging remarks made while changing classes. She is so tired of fighting this uphill battle alone. The school can not do anything to the students making the remarks because she does not know their names. She has been having panic attacks recently has started hearing voices (again), and refusing to go to school. Today May 3, 2016 I went to un-enroll her from school and the school student administrator sat my daughter and I down to talk. The outcome was to get her an Aide starting tomorrow so she will be less likely to be bullied in the halls. ( all her classes are L.D. so small class size with only L.D. kids). Daughter still doesn’t want to go to that school, and we want to try a specialized school but the head of Special Ed for the district said and I quote ” L…. hasn’t been a problem and is getting good grades, and hasn’t filed any complaints , so the school is meeting her needs “. What to do????????????????

    • Please get her out of that school. I myself (a person with Learning Disabilities) was in a similar situation and those school years are still my worse memories. I began to stop trusting people including family. I did not want to burden my mom so I kept the bullying to myself. I felt like I was all alone. In my case, I am a girl, it was boys with learning disabilities bullying me.

  7. It’s true that learning disabilities may lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and loss of self-esteem, etc. The earlier you diagnose it, the better it’s for your kid. If you see your kid struggling with his studies this year, determine the factors that might be causing these difficulties. It can be as trivial as switching schools or as common as adjusting to a new curriculum or the way instructors teach in the class. To know more, read the following post by Carey A. Heller:

  8. latasha hook says

    My son has mental illness and aspergers disorder.He graduated from high school and now attends Brewster technical center,took up culinary got a certificate now he is doing custodial training.My son has been to the crisis center numerous times,very heart breaking for me to see.He had one job in his life time at Mcdonalds,didnt workout he was to slow.He wants to work so bad.My son also loves to go to church and i thank God he dosent depend on alcohol or drugs.Do you have any suggestions for me? Im his mother.

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