If you are a rebellious child or teenager and you have not been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder, you are still at risk of being labelled and pathologized. The DSM informs us that “The essential feature of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior towards authority figures that persists for at least 6 months.”
Unbelievable as this Orwellian, Big Brother text is – it gets worse. If you are under 18 years old and you lose your temper, argue with adults, actively “defy or refuse to comply with the requests or rules of adults”, deliberately do things that annoy said adults, blame others for your mistakes or misbehavior – then unquestionably you are a sick little puppy. And who is to make these value judgements? An adult psychologist or psychiatrist or social worker or therapist. And what if you disagree with these authorities? They get annoyed and this is proof positive that you are afflicted with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Did anyone mention catch-22?
And the charade continues, masquerading as “science”. If you are touchy or get easily annoyed (for instance by the half-baked diagnoses rendered by certain mental health practitioners), you are ODD (i.e., you suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder).You are allowed to be touchy when you are an adult – it is then called assertiveness. You are allowed to get pissed off when you are above the crucial (though utterly arbitrary) age limit. Then it is called “expressing your emotions”, which is by and large a good thing. So tell us the charlatans that call themselves mental health ‘professionals’ (as though psychology is an exact science, not merely an elaborate literary exercise).
The DSM, this manual of the Potemkin science known as clinical psychology, continues to enlighten us:
If you are habitually angry and resentful, spiteful or vindictive and these traits impair your “normal” social, academic, or occupational functioning (whatever “normal” means in today’s pluralistic and anomic culture), beware: you may be harbouring Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). It is not clear what the DSM means by ‘occupational’ when Oppositional Defiant Disorder typically applies to primary school age children. Perhaps we will find out in the DSM V.
“The behaviors must occur more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level.” – the DSM helpfully elaborates. If the child is psychotic or suffers from a mood disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder should not be diagnosed.
Why am I bothering you with this tripe? Because the DSM is ominously clear:
“The diagnosis is not made if … criteria are met for Conduct Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder (in an individual above the age of 18).”
Get this straight: if you are above the age of 18 and you are stubborn, resistant to directions, “unwilling to compromise, give in, or negotiate with adults and peers”, ignore orders, argue, fail to accept blame for misdeeds, and deliberately annoy others – you stand a good chance of being “diagnosed” as a psychopath.
Let us hope that the “scholars” of the DSM VI Committee have the good sense to remove this blatant tool of social control from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. But don’t count on it and don’t argue with them if they don’t. They may diagnose you with something.
Children and adolescents with conduct disorder are budding psychopaths. They repeatedly and deliberately (and joyfully) violate the rights of others and breach age-appropriate social norms and rules. Some of them gleefully hurt and torture people or, more frequently, animals. Others damage property. Yet others habitually deceive, lie, and steal. These behaviors inevitably render them socially, occupationally, and academically dysfunctional. They are poor performers at home, in school, and in the community. As such adolescents grow up, and beyond the age of 18, the diagnosis automatically changes from Conduct Disorder to the Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Children with Conduct Disorder are in denial. They tend to minimize their problems and blame others for their misbehavior and failures. This shifting of guilt justifies, as far as they are concerned, their invariably and pervasively aggressive, bullying, intimidating, and menacing gestures and tantrums. Adolescents with Conduct Disorder are often embroiled in fights, both verbal and physical. They frequently use weapons, purchased or improvised (e.g., broken glass) and they are cruel. Many underage muggers, extortionists, purse-snatchers, rapists, robbers, shoplifters, burglars, arsonists, vandals, and animal torturers are diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.
Conduct Disorder comes in many shapes and forms. Some adolescents are “cerebral” rather than physical. These are likely to act as con-artists, lie their way out of awkward situations, swindle everyone, their parents and teachers included, and forge documents to erase debts or obtain material benefits.
Conduct-disordered children and adolescent find it difficult to abide by any rules and to honor agreements. They regard societal norms as onerous impositions. They stay late at night, run from home, are truant from school, or absent from work without good cause. Some adolescents with Conduct Disorder have been also diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and at least one personality disorder.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site.