Currently, our field vastly over commits diagnosis hysteria. Kids get bipolar for “sometimes he’s happy and sometimes he’s sad.” Drug addicts constantly receive bipolar diagnoses and get disability for that even though the DSM explicitly states that a diagnosis of bipolar cannot be given if the symptomatology cannot be better accounted for by another diagnosis, like drug dependency. Kids who can intently focus on what I’m saying through an entire hour and a half assessment are constantly given ADHD diagnoses just because they don’t pay attention at school, when it might just be the case that they don’t like their teacher or the subject matter or some dastardly other student that bothers them. To summate, our propensity to diagnose is out of control as a field.
When I came across this New York Times article chronicling a child psychopath, I couldn’t help but feel like, here we go again. Listening to the author talk intently, as though this is some kind of alien organism trapped for trillions of years on a hurtling asteroid and now awakened onto our planet, about the child’s behaviors, while wild and erratic, I couldn’t help but think that this is an attempt to sensationalize something that isn’t real.
What isn’t real you ask? Monsters. The Michael Myers, the Jason Vorhees, the Patrick Batemans, and Leatherfaces of the world aren’t real. They are figments of our imaginations. But since they anthropomorphically resemble us, their images hit close to home and we are more likely to believe that these monsters are possibly lurking about, in the shadows, maybe even embodied in a loved one that you don’t understand.
Personality can be a highly variable thing. We have bubbly personalities, quick-to-anger personalities, bland personalities, funny personalities, and everything not only in between but sometimes mixed into out-in-left-field combinations that still surprise us. No two humans are alike. No two brains are alike. Even in the event of genetic clones, there is enough disparity in experience to rewire neurons, and thus personality, just enough to give us some degree of variation.
In the event of a kid with severe behavioral issues, we aren’t dealing with some monster with no soul, no feelings, wearing a mask of humanity with nothing “behind the wheel” but a morose, caricature of humanity that only cares about satisfying its own desires, regardless of the wake up bloodshed in the rearview. And despite the level of exasperation in these poor parents and the desperate need to find some kind of answer behind these most difficult children, we can’t as a society be telling these parents that their child is a psychopath and write lengthy articles in nationally recognized newspapers about them just to appease them and their yearning for answers.
What’s wrong with these kids is simply that they have a different type of personality base than the rest of us. Their brains start with a different wiring of neurons and their neurotransmitters don’t flow the same way. That combined with environmental factors, genetic factors, modeling behaviors, and experience over the lifetime combine to produce personality. Don’t make the mistake of giving up on these kids and labeling them psychopaths and hauling them off to the institution just because you’re worn out. If you are going to choose to have kids, you have to accept the fact that they may not turn out to be perfect angels. And in fact, some of them will turn out to act terribly. Any number of combinations can transpire when combining DNA. Just like the kid’s father in the article, this kid, as well, has every shot of growing up to be a productive member of society. Perhaps he’s not quite the self starter that others are, and perhaps he will need some (ok … maybe MORE than some) additional support while growing into an independent adult.
This is what is happening anytime we are dipping into the gene pool. Same thing with pets, boxes of chocolates, or playing blackjack. But no matter if you have a dog who has extra trouble tearing up your pillows, a cat who scratches up your furniture, a family member who struggles with despair, or even some type of malady, we must make every effort to ensure the proper development of whatever organism you have agreed to be caretaker of. Life deserves the opportunity to grow, and if you choose to have children or pets or gardens then you must understand that you are running a risk of introducing a non-perfect lifeform into your habitat. Of course you might wind up with a bundle or pure joy mixed with rainbows and banana splits. Take care of your organism, whatever it is, because all life is precious.
Except snakes. I hate snakes.
Pursuit of Happiness
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