Is Non-Conformity a Mental Disorder?

By - December 14, 2013

Did I have a mental disorder as a child? Perhaps not according to the standards of the time, but using today's "scientific" understanding I must have had one, because I was crazy enough to think for myself. For example, when I was in junior high school me and a friend were accused of knocking over some tables in the lunchroom and so we were ordered by a teacher to stay after lunch and clean the room as punishment. Since I didn't knock over any tables, and the teacher didn't want to hear that, I simply left, and my friend followed me.

That was called "insubordination" on the official document that suspended us from school. I asked the vice-principle about the word and was shown the following definition: "Failure to comply with a reasonable request of a teacher or faculty member." I asked him who gets to define reasonable and he would not answer. I understood this to mean that he and any other teacher or faculty member making the request got to define the word.

I said to him, "In other words insubordination is refusal to do whatever anyone here asks, since the person asking gets to define "reasonable" in any way he or she wants. Does that sound fair to you?" After my arguments were done he added a day to the suspension, so I was sent home for three days while my friend got a two-day suspension. With my argumentativeness and failure to obey authority, along with my regular feelings of anger and annoyance at the injustice and stupidity of the school staff, I would now qualify for a phychological diagnosis, and perhaps some drugs or "therapy" to get me to obey and go along with the rules.

You see, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which is the big book that classifies mental disorders, now includes something called "oppositional defiant disorder" or ODD (isn't that odd?). At the moment it is considered a childhood illness, but if you search the internet you already see it being applied to adults. What is it? It is supposedly a mental illness that has symptoms like questioning authority and being argumentative. A diagnosis requires that the patient exhibit 4 out of the following 8 signs and symptoms over a period of time (generally at least six months):

Subject actively refuses to comply with majority's requests or consensus-supported rules.

Subject performs actions deliberately to annoy others.

Subject is angry and resentful of others.

Subject argues often.

Subject blames others for his or her own mistakes.

Subject often loses temper.

Subject is spiteful or seeks revenge.

Subject is touchy or easily annoyed.

Now consider the following scenario. A husband and wife and their church community are protesting gay rights or fighting the efforts of women who want to be ministers in the church, and they ask their adolescent son to participate, but he refuses. He is angry with them when they punish him, he argues against their stupid ideas, and is annoyed by their beliefs. Well, he must have an illness to be such a free thinker, right? He must have oppositional defiant disorder. If you look at the list above again you'll see that he clearly has the necessary four of the eight signs and symptoms to be diagnosed with ODD.

You can learn more about this "disorder" from the Wikipedia entry for ODD.

The proliferation of new mental illnesses or disorders is perhaps, to some extent, just the identification of real conditions that were not identified in the past, or a refining of illnesses into more categories, since there are variations of both mental and physical illnesses. On the other hand, these new disorders also provide more profits to the industries which benefit from all the new treatments required, both behavioral and pharmaceutical. They also provide more work and prestige for the participating doctors. So could there be some motivation other than scientific discovery at work here? I think so. Even if it's at a subconscious level, it certainly makes sense that professionals and experts would be biased toward "discoveries" that make them more important and wealthier.

Whether by conscious motivation or not, inventing or defining into existence new mental disorders for prestige and profit is bad enough. But it's even worse when we get to supposed "disorders" like ODD, and especially when this and other similar disorders are inevitably applied to adult psychology. At that point they become great tools for oppression. If that happens in this case, it would not be the first time that those who think for themselves are sent away to institutions where they can be silenced or "reformed" into obedient citizens.

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