Monday, March 23, 2009

The Will to Disorder

You may already know all about this, but I didn't. Apparently there's a new disease on the books -- the latest one! And no, I'm not talking about "bailout fatigue". This is something called "intermittent explosive disorder" (IED), and it has nothing to do with terrorists. It's apparently your doctor's word for what used to be called a bad temper -- but those old folk terms are so imprecise, aren't they? So now we have the serendipitously-named IED, which is clearly of much more diagnostic value. This came to my attention in an article about a local teen who attacked his girlfriend with a hammer -- apparently in response to getting jilted. (Let this be a warning to any young ladies present -- watch out who you get involved with, and if it's too late for that watch out who you break up with, especially if there are any hammers present!) Now, I'm sure I don't have to mention that this guy also had ADHD -- but how could he not, since that has become the universal diagnosis for what, in my day, was called "being a male teenager". In any case, IED -- according to the article -- "results in episodes of explosive behavior with an inability to control it." Which is another way of saying that IED results in IED. See, I told you this was a much more precise diagnostic category! How did we get along without it for so long?

Now, I don't question that this kid has something seriously wrong with him and that he needs help. Or, more precisely, everyone _else_ needs help in dealing with this kid (or avoiding him, as the case may be). What I question is this knee-jerk reaction on the part of "experts", who are ever ready to assign an official diagnostic category to something -- always including the word "disorder" -- when, in fact, they don't know thing one about it or why it occurs. Wouldn't it be more modest to just stick with the less formal, more folksy terminology until it could be firmly established that we really are talking about a clinical syndrome? But no, that would just seem way too "unprofessional". How much of a fee do you think you could collect for declaring that someone had a bad temper? Would Blue Cross pay up? Highly unlikely. So we wind up with this escalation in the terminology of pathology until -- as has already happened -- the majority of public school children have, in their file, some notation by some "provider" that they suffer from some sort of "disorder". Is this something that is going to pursue them, doggedly, through college and into military service, or a civilian career track? Maybe -- but by that time _everyone_ will have a "disorder", so it will no longer be of any value as a criterion. Then we can all sit back and relax and wait for the next brainstorm from the experts.

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