Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bipolar: the latest internet disease

I saw the Newsweek cover about "Growing up Bipolar" and was immediately angry. Then I read the article online and was even angrier. An internet disease is something that becomes fashionable through publicity on the internet, leading to massive self diagnoses of the illness either in the individual themselves or in their children. Before there was the internet proper there was ADD and ADHD, excuses for kids that are raised wrong, with no discipline, or are just stupid. Harsh words, but lets call it like it is. ADD/ADHD served as the magic bullet for upper class families whose dear little ones looked like they wouldn't score high enough on the SAT. Just get a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder and presto! you can get extra time to complete the test.

Asperger's syndrome is probably the internet disease du jour of the moment. As high functioning autism, it's a diagnosis for being uncomfortable socially and having serious social problems, as well as not doing stuff well except that which the person is obsessed with. Autism is a terrible disease that effects both parents and children in a profound way, and tacking the idea of Asperger's on to it is sort of an insult. Autistic kids can't function at all in the world, they need special care, and they need it from a very early age. Asperger's seems to be something that people magically find out they have when they start having problems in school.

Now Bipolar is up to bat, standing in for parental neglect, lack of mental ability, and in the case of the Newsweek story serious brain damage and/or retardation. Bipolar manifests itself, usually, in people who are around age 18. It can manifest in teenagers, but a diagnosis of it in actual children is extraordinarily rare. The kid talked about in the article not only was diagnosed with it as a child but was allegedly bipolar from his baby years. What a wonderful distortion of a real disease that effects real people, that overwhelmingly develops in people who are beyond childhood.

No one wants to say, or admit, that their kid is retarded. No one wants to admit that, if not retarded, they're just not as bright as you'd like. Parents don't want to admit that their fucked up, incompetent, ways of parenting might be causing the problems and want to give their kids psychiatric meds and feel better about themselves. They also don't want to admit that their kid might be doing bad things because, for whatever reason, he's chosen to be a fuck up. And they certainly don't want to admit that he or she may be organically brain damaged. So Aspergers, ADHD, and Bipolar come into play as place holders that allow parents to get social legitimacy while claiming victimhood.

Next step: childhood schizophrenia. Even if they don't hear voices they still, like, show some sort of symptom kind of like one that schizophrenics have, so it's obvious: we have a new plague, childhood Schizophrenia. Just give them some pills and avoid looking at life.

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