Not mad or bad, just scared. (Jun 07)Friday, 29 June 2007 02:30
Not mad or bad, just scared (June 07)
Suppose you’re at home awaiting the arrival of the person on whom you feel your life depends. The person is very late and the minutes are flying by. You try to watch television but you can’t concentrate. You move from chair to window and window to door. Acting on sudden impulses, you make phone calls, check diaries and traffic news. When a friend phones you for a chat you rudely order them to hang up. The line must be kept clear.
You’re exhibiting hyperactivity, impulsiveness, distractibility and emotional lability (short temper). You have been stricken with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Or it may be that you are afraid. The symptoms of ADHD are the symptoms of fear.
ADHD is the mental disorder which millions of children in the developed world have succumbed to in recent years. At the same time the numbers of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder ‘have risen astronomically’ (NS
Each of us has our own individual way of dealing with fear, but generally our method follows one of two common patterns. Many of us become quiet when we’re very frightened. We’re engaged in trying to keep our emotions under control. We want to think clearly about what is happening and to develop some kind of plan for understanding and dealing with the source of our fear. Our theory mightn’t be realistic or sensible, but it’s our way of trying to keep things under control.
Other people see this quiet thought as being unnecessary. Their policy has always been to act, not waste time thinking. They use action as a way of dealing with their fear.
Adventure movies often feature a thinker and an action man –
One of the outstanding differences between the Captain Kirks and the
It’s unlikely that the psychiatrists who’ve diagnosed these children with bipolar disorder have spent much time in long, detailed conversations with them as I did with my patients. Rather, they diagnosed the children on the basis of their behaviour as seen in the consulting room or described by the parents and teachers. They didn’t see the behaviour as the outward signs of great fear. Why did they do this?
We don’t simply become afraid. We are afraid of something. That thing can be outside us or inside us – a cancer, or a wicked thought. Children can become frightened of many things, but the one thing that all children fear is adults. Adults have the power to hurt the child, and many of them do. Loving parents and kind teachers know that they might inadvertently frighten a child, and, if so, it’s their task to reassure the child. If a child goes on and on being frightened and becomes unable to function normally and be happy, then the people who are responsible for this child’s welfare aren’t doing their job properly. In saying this I have broken a very powerful rule. Parents, and those who stand in loco parentis, must not be criticised. If a child doesn’t behave properly, it’s the child who is at fault. If he can’t be regarded as naughty and punished, he must be mad, and the madness treated with brain-altering drugs, the effect of which on the developing brain is unknown.
Blaming and punishing the child is a custom found in all societies throughout human history. In her book Thou Shalt Not Be Aware the psychoanalyst