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Pathologizing Rebellious Youth: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Uploaded 11/29/2010, approx. 3 minute read

I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

If you are a rebellious youth, a teenager, and you have not been diagnosed with conduct disorder, you are still at risk of being labelled and pathologized by the mental health profession.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual informs us that the essential feature of oppositional Defiant Disorder is a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior towards authority figures, pattern that persists for six months.

This is an unbelievable text. It is Orwellian, the big brother, and it gets worse.

If you are under 18 years old and you lose your temper, you argue with adults, or you actively, as the DSM puts it, defy or refuse to comply with the requests or rules of adults.

You deliberately do things to annoy, said adults. You blame others for your mistakes or misbehavior.

Well, if you do these things, you are unquestionably a sick little puppy. And who is to make these value judgments?

Well, adults. Adult psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and therapists. All of them, mind you, authority figures.

What if you disagree with these authority figures? Well, they get annoyed. And the very fact that they get annoyed is proof positive that you are afflicted with oppositional Defiant Disorder.


Well, did anyone mention catch-22? And the charade continues, masquerading as science.

If you are touchy, if you get easily annoyed, for instance, by the half-baked diagnosis rendered by certain mental health practitioners, you are definitely afflicted with oppositional Defiant Disorder. You're allowed to be touchy when you're an adult. It's called assertiveness. You are allowed to get pissed off when you're above the crucial, though utterly arbitrary, age limit. Then it is called expressing your emotions, which is by and large a good thing and encouraged.

So the charlatans tell us that psychology is an exact science, not merely an elaborate literary exercise. The diagnosis of oppositional Defiant Disorder seems to put the whole mental health profession to shame.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 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 atomic culture.

Well, if you are, beware, you may be harboring oppositional Defiant Disorder.

It is not clear what the DSM means by occupational when oppositional Defiant Disorder typically applies to primary school-aged children. Perhaps we will find out in the next iteration of the DSM, DSM 5.

The DSM continues, the behaviors attributed to oppositional Defiant Disorder must occur more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level.

That is not very helpful. If the child is psychotic or suffers from a mood disorder, oppositional Defiant Disorder should not be diagnosed and elaborates the DSM.

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.

Well, 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, as the DSM puts it, ignore others, argue if you fail to accept blame for misdeeds and deliberately annoy others, annoy.

Do you stand a good chance of being diagnosed as a psychopath? Let us hope that the scholars of the Diagnostic and Statistical 5 committee have the good sense to remove this latent tool of social control from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual itself.

But don't count on it and don't argue with them if they don't. They may diagnose you with something.

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