Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ordering of Disorder. . .

I have long lamented the way that we answer disorder with a diagnosis and then treat it with drugs or therapy, treating the symptoms instead of the cause.  This has become the standard way we deal with all sorts of things -- including sin.  For one thing, when we classify something as a disorder, we take the stigma away.  After all, what is natural must be normal.  For another, when we make it a disorder, we take away all responsibility from the person who manifests the disorder.  If it is not your fault, you are relieved of any need to correct it.  Finally, when we order disorders, we put the burden upon the others rather upon the disordered and it becomes the responsibility of the others to adapt to and live with the disorder.  This shift of responsibility also places the moral context upon those who accept, adapt, and deal with the disordered and not upon the disordered themselves.

I was reading an article on why American children have such high rates of ADHD and why French children do not.  It typifies the way we as Americans deal with disorderly people.

In an article entitled “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD,” Marilyn Wedge says, “In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications.” In France she says the number is less than half a percent. Why don’t French kids have ADHD?
Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological­–psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.
The real question is not “Why don’t French kids have ADHD?” The real question is “Why do American kids have it?” After all, we’re the ones who are abnormal.

You can read the entire article here...

As the author so clearly states, the children are not the problem we are.  To extend that, the problem with disorders is the way we define them, make them natural and normal, and force others to change for them rather than the person adapting.  We are the problem.  We do not want to change.  We want to be who we are with it all hanging out.  We want to be accepted for who we are -- warts and all.  What is true in terms of things like ADHD is magnified in the way we make everything natural and therefore God's fault.  In this we are not much different than Eden in which Eve blamed the serpent and therefore by implication God since God was the creator of all that is.

Behavior and disorder are not the same thing and yet we have chosen to define them as the same.  In this way the misbehaving are as "normal" as those who behave.  It is the T-Ball mentality in which everyone gets as many chances as bat as they need, no one keeps score, and there are no winners or losers.  In essence, when we eliminate the wrong, we have also removed virtue from the equation. 

The author begins his piece with a quote from Chesterton. G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.” A rich man cannot be a thief. He must be a kleptomaniac. America, the richest society in the history of the world, applies this use of science with diligence...We apply it most diligently on behalf of our children. No red-blooded American child would misbehave. Our children have disorders.

May it is our riches.  Maybe it is our arrogance.  Maybe it is sin, if not all, at least in part.


Katrina said...

I find the problem with referencing the French/American study of children with ADHD is that there isn't a discussion of the long term effects of a diagnosis/lack of diagnosis. I would like to see a long term study observing how French children who would fall under the American diagnosis of ADHD turn out. Do they become better adult citizens than their American counterparts? Are they more likely to struggle with things like depression? Are they more inclined to participate in deviant behaviors? Granted, this would be a costly study. :)

Likewise, I spent a year in college interning/working at a daycare for children with behavior disorders. Many of them had been diagnosed with severe ADHD. For us as caretakers, this diagnosis didn't mean that these children got a free ticket to behave however they wanted; it meant that we could have a little more empathy for them in their struggles. If their impulsive actions lead to physical violence, verbal outbursts, or general disrespect,there were still consequences for their actions. Likewise, part of our job was to teach them coping skills in hopes that someday they could live as productive citizens.

I don't mean my comments to seem hostile or disrespectful. I just wanted to point out that there are some Lutherans who do see these disorders as part of living in a sinful world. Really, it's a balancing act of lovingly understanding why a child or adult struggles more with certain sinful behaviors while still holding them accountable for those behaviors.

Anonymous said...

Here is a response to the French ADHD article:
Yes, the French have ADHD in the same numbers as we do. They just choose to call it something else, or ignore it. Hmm. Sort of like not calling sin, sin. People in the Holiness movement don't sin do they? I think Joyce Meyer said she doesn't sin anymore either


Anonymous said...

The point of the post is still valid. The French have the behaviors but choose to deal with the behavior on a level other than diagnosis and medication. In America, diagnosis and medication have become the prevalent way of dealing with everything. We treat symptoms but not causes and we make problems into disorders in large measure to relieve the individual and the family from dealing with the problem with behavior modification. By diagnosing our ailments we effectively relieve us of any burden of dealing with those ills other than medication. Again, medication treats symptoms, often at a cost to other aspects of the individual's health, while failing to deal with the causes.

Sign me bipolar and having gone through a lifetime of drugs and hell in the American psychiatric system...