Date: Oct 8th, 2010
Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ofMental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mentalillness called “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an“ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptomsinclude questioning authority, negativity, defiance,argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed.
The DSM-IV is the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses and, with each new edition, there are scores of new mentalillnesses. Are we becoming sicker? Is it getting harder to be mentallyhealthy? Authors of the DSM-IV say that it’s because they’re betterable to identify these illnesses today. Critics charge that it’sbecause they have too much time on their hands.
New mental illnesses identified by the DSM-IV include arrogance, narcissism, above-average creativity, cynicism, and antisocialbehavior. In the past, these were called “personality traits,” but nowthey’re diseases.
And there are treatments available.
All of this is a symptom of our over-diagnosing and overmedicating culture. In the last 50 years, the DSM-IV has gone from 130 to 357mental illnesses. A majority of these illnesses afflict children.Although the manual is an important diagnostic tool for the psychiatricindustry, it has also been responsible for social changes. The rise inADD, bipolar disorder, and depression in children has been largelybecause of the manual’s identifying certain behaviors as symptoms. AWashington Post article observed that, if Mozart were born today, hewould be diagnosed with ADD and “medicated into barren normality.”
According to the DSM-IV, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just aseasily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinkingAmerican reason for worry.
The Soviet Union used new “mental illnesses” for political repression. People who didn’t accept the beliefs of the Communist Partydeveloped a new type of schizophrenia. They suffered from thedelusion of believing communism was wrong. They were isolated,forcefully medicated, and put through repressive “therapy” to bringthem back to sanity.
When the last edition of the DSM-IV was published, identifying the symptoms of various mental illnesses in children, there was a jump inthe diagnosis and medication of children. Some states have laws thatallow protective agencies to forcibly medicate, and even make it apunishable crime to withhold medication. This paints a chilling picturefor those of us who are nonconformists.
Although the authors of the manual claim no ulterior motives but simply better diagnostic practices, the labeling of freethinking andnonconformity as mental illnesses has a lot of potential for abuse. Itcan easily become a weapon in the arsenal of a repressive state.