Stay with me here, because I’m about to make a radical suggestion, and it just might blow your mind. This could get messy. OK, Ready? Alright, here it is:
What if — this is a big IF — what if people are all, like, different?
Don’t stop reading yet. Seriously, think about it. What if there ISN’T actually some preordained mold of behavior and thought in which we’re all supposed to fit? What if it’s OK for some people to be a certain way, while others are another way, and still others are an entirely different way? What if some people are active, and some people aren’t; some people are creative, and some people aren’t; some people have a lot of energy, and some people don’t; some people are daydreamers, and some people aren’t? What if — again, HUGE if — but what if we tried to find a place for the unique qualities of all men and women, rather than attempting to chemically eradicate entire personality types simply because they don’t gel with our artificial societal constructs?
What if we stopped trying to make our kids “normal,” and instead encouraged them to be exceptional?
It’s worth a shot, isn’t it? Some of you might be nodding in agreement. Prescription drug companies, on the other hand, would be incensed at these reckless notions. I just read an article about drug companies lamenting the fact that they have trouble selling ADHD meds in Europe due to a “stigma” that surrounds the disease. Stigma. That’s apparently what we call it when people are naturally and rationally hesitant to start stuffing pills down their children’s throats.
Now, let me clearly state one thing from the start: I know that mental disorders exist. I know that medication is sometimes necessary and helpful in treating such disorders.
But I also know that the CDC tells us 20 percent of the kids in this country have a “mental disorder.” And, of the 80 percent that are “normal,” the majority of them will end up with at least one psychological affliction once they reach adulthood. The CDC recently claimed that nearly half of the adults in the US will develop a mental disorder. HALF.
So, do mental disorders exist? Sure. Absolutely. Of course. But if half of us have one, then I guess you can’t really call them disorders, can you? If the CDC and Big Pharma are to be believed — “mental disorders” are very much a part of the normal order of things. When everybody has a disorder, then nobody has a disorder. The Latin prefix “dis” means “apart” or “away.” If we’ve all got disorders, then what, precisely, is the “order” from which we’re all apart?
If half of all humans from the beginning of time had been born with one arm, who’d be able to say that they should have two? Maybe the two armed folks are the deformed ones. It would be impossible to know.
I believe mental disorders exist, which is why I think they’re massively over diagnosed. And if they’re massively over diagnosed, we’re going to have to take a serious look at the “diagnostic” criteria for each alleged disorder. I think we should start with ADHD, seeing as how it has no diagnostic criteria.
Oh, I know, doctors “diagnose” kids with ADHD all the time.
Except that, no, they don’t. The doctor simply confirms their “symptoms.” If you go to the dermatologist because you have a rash, you wouldn’t walk away feeling like you got your money’s worth if the doctor simply looked at it, shrugged, and said, “yep, that’s a rash.” That’s essentially the way ADHD is “diagnosed.” You bring your child in and say, “doc, Johnny can’t pay attention in class.” Tests are run to further prove that Johnny has trouble concentrating on certain things, and — POOF!– the disorder has been “diagnosed.” But my analogy doesn’t really work because a rash is, without a doubt, evidence that SOMETHING, whether serious or minor, is wrong. The “symptoms” of ADHD are just evidence that your child is a child. Here’s how the National Institute of Mental Health describes the symptoms of ADHD:
-Get distracted easily and forget things often
-Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
-Have trouble with directions
-Daydream too much
-Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
-Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
-Fidget and squirm a lot
-Talk nonstop and interrupt people
-Run around a lot
-Touch and play with everything they see
-Be very impatient
-Blurt out inappropriate comments
-Have trouble controlling their emotions.
Lord, that sounds like the description of a severely troubled individual. Either that, or it could describe a, you know, CHILD.
Sorry, but if “daydream too much” and “run around a lot” are listed as possible indications of a mental disorder, something is terribly, terribly wrong. And I don’t mean something is wrong with your child. I mean something is wrong with our society.
But the people who wish to diseasify our children, by turning normal childlike behavior into cause for medication, realize that they need more justification than what’s listed above. That’s why the Mayo Clinic‘s fact sheet about ADHD starts with this sentence:
In general, a child shouldn’t receive a diagnosis of ADHD unless the core symptoms of ADHD start early in life and create significant problems at home and at school on an ongoing basis.
So your kid doesn’t have ADHD unless he’s been fidgeting and daydreaming from a young age, AND if it “creates significant problems at home and at school.” But wait — why should that be taken into consideration? If something is a disorder, then it’s a disorder, regardless of the inconveniences it creates in controlled environments like public school. If you go to the gastroenterology clinic because you’re having severe stomach pains, I doubt the doctor will start by asking if the pain has created problems at school. Do you know why? Because that has NOTHING to do with whether this IS or ISN’T a legitimate medical condition.
If my son “suffers” from a propensity to talk a lot and lose his toys, it’s only a sign of a psychological problem if it creates an undue nuisance? What if he has asthma? Is it only asthma if it makes my life difficult, or is it asthma if it’s asthma, regardless of how I feel about it? I realize physical ailments are different than psychological problems. So take schizophrenia, for example. Do I have schizophrenia if it creates problems in school, or do I have schizophrenia regardless of how much trouble it causes in the classroom?
People tell me they know ADHD is real, because they were put on ADHD medication and it suddenly made school much easier for them. But that makes about as much sense as Lance Armstrong trying to justify his steroid usage by insisting that it made it easier to win the Tour de France. Of course it made it easier. That’s why people take them. You might find it easier to socialize at a party after you drain a few shots of Jack, but that isn’t exactly proof that Jack Daniels should start marketing itself as “medication” for “social anxieties.” In fact, Armstrong is looked down upon for resorting to drugs to get a leg up on his competition, and I’d be called an alcoholic if I relied on booze to be sociable around people, yet we see no problem encouraging our kids to use drugs to get ahead in an academic environment.
Maybe this is why our “Just Say No To Drugs” campaigns have been less than effective. “Junior, don’t resort to drugs to solve your problems. Say no to drugs, no matter what! On an unrelated note, remember to take your pills today — you’ve got a big test in fourth period. Anyway, back to the evils of drugs…”
Powerful sermon, isn’t it?
Ah, but surely there must be some truth to this ADHD thing; after all, look at just how distracted our young people are these days. Look how many of them struggle to concentrate in school. It’s an epidemic. How else can this be explained?
Right, there must be a mysterious mental disorder going around. Or, you know, the culprit could be:
-Lack of physical exercise
-Constant barrages of advertising
-Lack of discipline
-Lack of sleep
-Disinterest in academics
-A government school system that only suits a particular personality type and leaves everyone else at a disadvantage
-Over emphasis on memorization and regurgitation
-Differing skill sets
Could it be that our kids are distracted because they’re surrounded by distractions? Could they be overstimulated because they’re surrounded by stimulation? Could they have trouble paying attention in school because school is tedious and boring?
Could it be? Maybe?
Shouldn’t we at least consider these possibilities?
Yet, I admit, some children have trouble performing well in school, and struggle to sit still and concentrate on tasks, regardless of the factors I listed. With these troublemakers, you could put them in a sound proof room with nothing but a pencil and a copy of their math text book, and they’d spend the whole time staring into space, or drawing pictures on the pages. I know those kid exist, particularly because I was one. I’m still that way. Give me a math test, sit me in a room, and two hours later I’ll come out with a cool idea for a screenplay, or a sketch of a grizzly bear, or an essay about why ADHD doesn’t exist. My wife makes fun of me because I can’t sit down without shaking my leg or scratching my head or otherwise finding a way to occupy one of my limbs. I daydream. A lot. I get lost in my own head. I forget things. I’m horrible at math. I mean, horrible. Seriously, it’s embarrassing. What’s five times five? Really, I don’t know.
Ok, it’s not that bad, but almost. The point is: if ADHD is a real mental disorder — I have it. I have it in spades. I have it with bells on. I should be on the “ADHD EXISTS” billboards. I have ADHD HD. I’ve got it in High Definition.
Or, I’m just different. I’m a different sort of person. I don’t “work” in certain environments; which means I have to find an environment that suits me. If I HAD to go to college and work at an office, I’d “need” medicine to function. But I didn’t go to college, and I don’t work at an office, and I get along just fine. Nowadays, we have a very rigid, narrow view of how people should behave, how they should think, and what they should do. Our kids aren’t born into the world — they’re born into a hallway. If they try to break down the walls and head in a different direction, we’ll lasso them back with a combination of fear and drugs.
We’ve got it all worked out: people are born, then a few years later they enter school, then they go to college, then they get a 9 to 5 job with benefits, a pension and two weeks of paid vacation, then they retire at 65 and live off their retirement and Social Security until they die at 87. That’s what it means to be a person, and we won’t accept any other options.
The problem is that we don’t leave room for the artists and the radicals, the philosophers and the thinkers, the inventors and the revolutionaries. What about the people who aren’t suited for the rule, but could change the world if we let them be the exception to it? It’s a good thing they didn’t have ADHD in the old days. Think of what sort of mental straightjacket they would have strapped on the likes of Einstein, Mozart, Picasso, Edison, Franklin, Twain, Ghandi, Socrates, MLK jr, Jefferson, and Beethoven. These guys probably did way too much daydreaming, and I doubt many of them would have been particularly good at following the public school curriculum. I’m not saying that everyone who shows “symptoms” of ADHD is actually a towering creative genius — I’m living proof of that. But even if I’m a man of moderate talent and intelligence, I’ve still been blessed to know many people who are, without a doubt, intellectually adept, highly creative, and very gifted. Every single one of them either has been, or could be, diagnosed with any number of “mental disorders.” And that’s not a damned coincidence. Brilliant people think divergently; they have a different way of formulating and processing their thoughts and communicating those thoughts to the world. And, whatever goes on in that beautiful head, what it eventually produces is often enlightening and exciting. Smart, creative people don’t fit into any sort of preordained mental “order.” They just don’t. It truly saddens me to think of all the geniuses we have drugged into submission by the age of 7.
The human mind is capable of incredible, miraculous things — if only we can unlock its potential. Instead, we do the exact opposite. We numb it, drug it and throw it in a padded room, afraid of what it might do if we allow it to run free.
The only thing worse than trying to control WHAT people think, is trying to control HOW they think. In this country, we do both. And then we have the nerve to claim we value “diversity” and “freedom.” We do everything in our power to eradicate diversity of thought and freedom of thought, even resorting to fabricating mental disorders to give us an excuse to commit a psychological genocide of entire personality types.
We can’t have it both ways. We either want children to fit into our reductive, simplistic, constraining mold so that they will sit still and follow the program, OR we want them, first and foremost, to be creative, smart, passionate, curious, and exceptional. One must come at the expense of the other; there is no way around it.
There’s no question that some people — myself included — think and behave in a certain way; a way that currently falls under the “ADHD” umbrella. The question is this: are these people “disordered”? Do they need medicine? Is there something WRONG with how they are?
Or should we help them explore and harness their different, complicated, wonderful minds? In the end, this is more of a philosophical question than a medical one. I know my answer. I encourage you to come up with your own.
Some people have mental disorders. Some kids who are diagnosed with ADHD actually may have other legitimate disorders. But it’s time to take control of this situation. It’s not fair to our children to throw them into this world where all of their human emotions, tendencies and personality traits will be used against them at the pharmacist.
So we need to start by having an honest conversation about this ADHD thing. Even if it makes us uncomfortable.
Now time to clean out my inbox for a fresh batch of hate mail…
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