Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Medicalization of Everything

There has been a tendency to medicalize personality traits recently, and to medicate away the differences in people in order to achieve some sort of personality conformity, which I fear will ultimately have deleterious effects on our society, as a whole.

ADD and ADHD are perfect examples. Yes, these disorders absolutely exist. However, there is a tendency to use these disorders as a crutch and an excuse for poor parenting (flame suit on). Kids that really aren’t ADD or ADHD come through my mom’s classroom all the time. They are otherwise bright kids, who have simply never been taught to listen, to sit still, to sit up straight, and to do the right thing, by parents who either found such endeavors too time consuming, or who listened to the Dr. Spock pseudo-intelectual bullcrap about stifling their creativity by enforcing rules and boundaries to their behavior. I think some of what we call mild autism spectrum disorder today may be a partial result of this very thing.

What I fear in all of this is the medication portion of the “fix” to these personality traits. Many of our most brilliant minds were almost undoubtedly autistic, or obsessive compulsive, or ADHD, or some combination thereof.

Newton, for example, shunned personal contact, had very little social interaction, didn’t rountinely bathe, and was generally thought to be an asshole by most people that knew him. He was almost undoubtedly autistic, and he used the single-mindedness of his condition to advance science in a way that a person distracted by social interaction, partying, trying to get laid, and so forth, would not have found time to do.

Gallileo blinded himself from his obsessive compulsive need to study things, like the sun, for instance, which he stared into for so long that it robbed him of his eyesight. Can you say obsessive compulsive disorder?

Leonardo DaVinci spent his entire life dreaming up mind-boggling inventions, and painstakingly writing them down in his journals, even inventing his own way of writing to keep his “secrets” safe from other, prying eyes, lending to my observation that there may have been some OCD in there with a touch of paranoia.

Michelangelo was one of the smelliest people to ever walk on two feet, and for that to be of note in an era where bathing was seen as optional, we can only assume that it was pretty bad. Again, poor social skills, but massive talent.

Do I even have to explain why I think Nikolai Tesla was OCD, and probably autistic?

So my question is this: How many Michelangelos, Gallileos, Teslas, and Newtons are we currently drugging into drab, routine conformance with our medicalization of personality traits what used to be known by words such as “eccentric” and “introverted”, but are now called personality disorders and autism? What brilliant minds are we missing out on because of drugs like Ritalin and thorazine? What scientific advances are being lost to humanity because we want them to be like everyone else, instead of celebrating, and capitalizing on, their differences?

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