How has America come to the point where normal childhood behavior has been reclassified as a disease?
That is a question Marilyn Wedge, an ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) expert answers in Time magazine. Here are excerpts from her article:
“The notion of mental health or mental illness is relative to the values of a particular society at a particular time in history. Our hectic society paradoxically frowns on overly active children—even children as young as four or five years old. Our society wants children to be restrained, orderly, and eager to please adults. We have little tolerance for typically boyish traits such as bounciness, fidgetiness, and mischievousness. We want boys to sit still for hours in the classroom without physical exercise, pay attention to their teachers, and not throw spitballs. What’s more, as a society we have decided (or at least acquiesced) to drug these annoying traits out of boys. This is more than moving the goalposts. It is more like changing the game.
There is another aspect of ADHD that worries me. As stimulants have come to be prescribed for ever larger numbers of children, our society’s very perception of childhood has changed. Instead of seeing ADHD-type behaviors as part of the spectrum of normal childhood that most kids eventually grow out of, or as responses to bumps or rough patches in a child’s life, we cluster these behaviors into a discrete (and chronic) “illness” or “mental health condition” with clearly defined boundaries. And we are led to believe that this “illness” is rooted in the child’s genetic makeup and requires treatment with psychiatric medication.“
Later on in the article there is a fascinating section that discusses how the discovery of a new drug actually leads patients to being diagnosed with a disease or condition. You can read the wonderfully written article here.