Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill

Bruce Levine, Ph.D.

February 26, 2012

(Note: Read Bruce Levine’s latest post: Anti-Authoritarians and Schizophrenia: Do Rebels Who Defy Treatment Do Better?

In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by (1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians, and (2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.

Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.

Some activists lament how few anti-authoritarians there appear to be in the United States. One reason could be that many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologized and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society’s most oppressive authorities.

Why Mental Health Professionals Diagnose Anti-Authoritarians with Mental Illness

Gaining acceptance into graduate school or medical school and achieving a PhD or MD and becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist means jumping through many hoops, all of which require much behavioral and attentional compliance to authorities, even to those authorities that one lacks respect for. The selection and socialization of mental health professionals tends to breed out many anti-authoritarians. Having steered the higher-education terrain for a decade of my life, I know that degrees and credentials are primarily badges of compliance. Those with extended schooling have lived for many years in a world where one routinely conforms to the demands of authorities. Thus for many MDs and PhDs, people different from them who reject this attentional and behavioral compliance appear to be from another world—a diagnosable one.

I have found that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals are not only extraordinarily compliant with authorities but also unaware of the magnitude of their obedience. And it also has become clear to me that the anti-authoritarianism of their patients creates enormous anxiety for these professionals, and their anxiety fuels diagnoses and treatments.

In graduate school, I discovered that all it took to be labeled as having “issues with authority” was to not kiss up to a director of clinical training whose personality was a combination of Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, and Howard Cosell. When I was told by some faculty that I had “issues with authority,” I had mixed feelings about being so labeled. On the one hand, I found it quite amusing, because among the working-class kids whom I had grown up with, I was considered relatively compliant with authorities. After all, I had done my homework, studied, and received good grades. However, while my new “issues with authority” label made me grin because I was now being seen as a “bad boy,” it also very much concerned me about just what kind of a profession that I had entered. Specifically, if somebody such as myself was being labeled with “issues with authority,” what were they calling the kids I grew up with who paid attention to many things that they cared about but didn’t care enough about school to comply there? Well, the answer soon became clear.

Mental Illness Diagnoses for Anti-Authoritarians

A 2009 Psychiatric Times article titled “ADHD & ODD: Confronting the Challenges of Disruptive Behavior” reports that “disruptive disorders,” which include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and opposition defiant disorder (ODD), are the most common mental health problem of children and teenagers. ADHD is defined by poor attention and distractibility, poor self-control and impulsivity, and hyperactivity. ODD is defined as a “a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior without the more serious violations of the basic rights of others that are seen in conduct disorder”; and ODD symptoms include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules” and “often argues with adults.”

Psychologist Russell Barkley, one of mainstream mental health’s leading authorities on ADHD, says that those afflicted with ADHD have deficits in what he calls “rule-governed behavior,” as they are less responsive to rules of established authorities and less sensitive to positive or negative consequences. ODD young people, according to mainstream mental health authorities, also have these so-called deficits in rule-governed behavior, and so it is extremely common for young people to have a “duel diagnosis” of AHDH and ODD.

Do we really want to diagnose and medicate everyone with “deficits in rule-governed behavior”?

Albert Einstein, as a youth, would have likely received an ADHD diagnosis, and maybe an ODD one as well. Albert didn’t pay attention to his teachers, failed his college entrance examinations twice, and had difficulty holding jobs. However, Einstein biographer Ronald Clark (Einstein: The Life and Times) asserts that Albert’s problems did not stem from attention deficits but rather from his hatred of authoritarian, Prussian discipline in his schools. Einstein said, “The teachers in the elementary school appeared to me like sergeants and in the Gymnasium the teachers were like lieutenants.” At age 13, Einstein read Kant’s difficult Critique of Pure Reason—because Albert was interested in it. Clark also tells us Einstein refused to prepare himself for his college admissions as a rebellion against his father’s “unbearable” path of a “practical profession.” After he did enter college, one professor told Einstein, “You have one fault; one can’t tell you anything.” The very characteristics of Einstein that upset authorities so much were exactly the ones that allowed him to excel.

By today’s standards, Saul Alinsky, the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would have certainly been diagnosed with one or more disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Alinsky also recalls a time when he was ten or eleven and his rabbi was tutoring him in Hebrew:

One particular day I read three pages in a row without any errors in pronunciation, and suddenly a penny fell onto the Bible . . . Then the next day the rabbi turned up and he told me to start reading. And I wouldn’t; I just sat there in silence, refusing to read. He asked me why I was so quiet, and I said, “This time it’s a nickel or nothing.” He threw back his arm and slammed me across the room.

Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.

I have also spent a great deal of time with people who had at one time in their lives had thoughts and behavior that were so bizarre that they were extremely frightening for their families and even themselves; they were diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses, but have fully recovered and have been, for many years, leading productive lives. Among this population, I have not met one person whom I would not consider a major anti-authoritarian. Once recovered, they have learned to channel their anti-authoritarianism into more constructive political ends, including reforming mental health treatment.

Many anti-authoritarians who earlier in their lives were diagnosed with mental illness tell me that once they were labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, they got caught in a dilemma. Authoritarians, by definition, demand unquestioning obedience, and so any resistance to their diagnosis and treatment created enormous anxiety for authoritarian mental health professionals; and professionals, feeling out of control, labeled them “noncompliant with treatment,” increased the severity of their diagnosis, and jacked up their medications. This was enraging for these anti-authoritarians, sometimes so much so that they reacted in ways that made them appear even more frightening to their families.

There are anti-authoritarians who use psychiatric drugs to help them function, but they often reject psychiatric authorities’ explanations for why they have difficulty functioning. So, for example, they may take Adderall (an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD), but they know that their attentional problem is not a result of a biochemical brain imbalance but rather caused by a boring job. And similarly, many anti-authoritarians in highly stressful environments will occasionally take prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax even though they believe it would be safer to occasionally use marijuana but can’t because of drug testing on their job

It has been my experience that many anti-authoritarians labeled with psychiatric diagnoses usually don’t reject all authorities, simply those they’ve assessed to be illegitimate ones, which just happens to be a great deal of society’s authorities.

Maintaining the Societal Status Quo

Americans have been increasingly socialized to equate inattention, anger, anxiety, and immobilizing despair with a medical condition, and to seek medical treatment rather than political remedies. What better way to maintain the status quo than to view inattention, anger, anxiety, and depression as biochemical problems of those who are mentally ill rather than normal reactions to an increasingly authoritarian society.

The reality is that depression is highly associated with societal and financial pains. One is much more likely to be depressed if one is unemployed, underemployed, on public assistance, or in debt (for documentation, see “400% Rise in Anti-Depressant Pill Use”). And ADHD labeled kids do pay attention when they are getting paid, or when an activity is novel, interests them, or is chosen by them (documented in my book Commonsense Rebellion).

In an earlier dark age, authoritarian monarchies partnered with authoritarian religious institutions. When the world exited from this dark age and entered the Enlightenment, there was a burst of energy. Much of this revitalization had to do with risking skepticism about authoritarian and corrupt institutions and regaining confidence in one’s own mind. We are now in another dark age, only the institutions have changed. Americans desperately need anti-authoritarians to question, challenge, and resist new illegitimate authorities and regain confidence in their own common sense.

In every generation there will be authoritarians and anti-authoritarians. While it is unusual in American history for anti-authoritarians to take the kind of effective action that inspires others to successfully revolt, every once in a while a Tom Paine, Crazy Horse, or Malcolm X come along. So authoritarians financially marginalize those who buck the system, they criminalize anti-authoritarianism, they psychopathologize anti-authoritarians, and they market drugs for their “cure.”

Related Items:

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The Vermont Longitudinal Study & Correction of Seven Myths
Compulsory Hospitalization Does Not Improve Outcomes
People With Schizophrenia Diagnoses Actually Do Listen 

Bruce Levine
Anti-Authoritarians and Schizophrenia: Do Rebels Who Defy Treatment Do Better?
How Technology Worship Keeps Americans Ignorant about Depression Treatment 
How the “Brain Defect” Theory of Depression Stigmatizes Depression Sufferers
Marginalization and the Mental Health Industry Racket (video)

Michael Cornwall
Are Some Psychiatrists Addicted to Deference?
I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?

Corinna West
Why Can’t They Hear Our Truth? We Have a Cure
10 Reasons Survivors Might Know More Medicine Than Psychiatrists

Bruce Levine, Ph.D.

Commonsense Rebellion: Bruce E. Levine, a practicing clinical psychologist, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect. His latest book is Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite. His Web site is www.brucelevine.net

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295 thoughts on “Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill

    • So a 7 year old who refuses to read or practice reading is healthy anti-authority individual?

      Or older individuals who rebel because it is authority are really ok?

      The assumption of this writer is that those with ODD are consciously choosing their behaviour rather than reacting to unconscious frames. Sorry after 44 years of working as a social worker with children ages 2-18 and adults to age 82, this analysis does not work for me.

        • So, you dismiss a person with years of field experience that you don’t have then proceed with subtle ad hominem, your counter arguments need work.

          The work of a mental health professional is to make sure a person integrates into society and to mitigate danger to themselves and others. There are many variables and factors involved in treating people, for someone to so broadly generalize shows a sign of incomplete analysis of the situation.

          Also, using an outlier like Einstein as an example is inherently flawed when generalizing a large population.

          • Examples illustrate points. It’s a basic writing technique.
            And the whole point of this article is to argue that the people with years of experience are exactly who’s wrong!

          • what if that society, into which intergration is of the utmost importance, is really kinda shitty and stupid and banal? what if the widely held societal norms are inherently dangerous and impractical such that any rational examination of that society leads a person to believe that its filled with mindless assholes?

          • I’m not sure the job of an MHP is to “make sure a person integrates into society.” I see the job as more to help people be themselves while being able to survive in society. See Sam’s comment about banal societies. US society is truly not set up for all the varieties of people, and many of us need the ability to maneuver through it while being ourselves.

            shalom v’ahava,
            Menachem

          • “It has been my experience that many anti-authoritarians labeled with psychiatric diagnoses usually don’t reject all authorities, simply those they’ve assessed to be illegitimate ones, which just happens to be a great deal of society’s authorities.”

            I looked up this article because I have a good functional medicine doctor, a good chiropractor, and an idiot GP. Two of them think I’m an eccentric genius, one of them wants me to be “evaluated” and, potentially, locked up.

          • While this is true, Jaroon, it would be more than interesting to start a specialty school for ADHD children to see if this kind of behavior can be fostered, circumvented, redirected or directed. That approach would certainly be more beneficial than medicating children who don’t behave.

          • “to make sure a person integrates into society” into this war-mongering, narrow minded, greed corrupted society is the height of mental illness

          • Jaroon,

            No ad hominem attack here, but don’t you see the Irony of your definition of mental health professionals? You definition confirms the authors point.

            I will para phrase your definition. “The work of a mental health profesiional is to make a person COMPLY to society’s accepted behavior patterns.”

            Think that one through and re-read the article.

          • I distrust anyone psych professional who sees it as his job to “integrate” people into “society.” Our “society” is a racist, classist corporate oligarchy with pretensions to empire. What we term “freedom” is often the privilege of living off ill-gotten goods. Why do mental health professionals so often lack a social conscience? I can’t take anyone like that seriously.

          • Why do we have to make sure people integrate into society? I understand that we need to safeguard the population as a whole but if someone doesn’t want to be a part of a society they feel is oppressive and controlling who are we to force them into it?

            As to the seven year old who refuses to read, I suspect the background is flawed, not the child.

          • The work of a mental health professional is to make sure a person integrates into society?

            “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” Krishnimurti

            Perhaps some ‘patients’ are more aware than their ‘doctors’?

      • First, he didn’t say that being an anti-authoritarian is de facto “healthy” – merely that it is being automatically being labelled as “unhealthy” and the anti-authoritarian kids are being punished for failure to comply with authority. Anyone who has spend time in the average elementary school classroom will see that this is so.

        I think what he is recommending it helping those anti-authoritarian types find a path forward that doesn’t leave them with the choice of either constant frustration and punishment and discouragement, and feelings of loss of integrity that go along with violating one’s values. He is also clear that being anti-authoritarian doesn’t mean being opposed to all authority, it simply means being willing to comply only with authorities who have earned your respect. The core of what he’s describing is the sense that you are the person most qualified to determine what is true for you. The authoritarian relies on “higher authority” to determine what is real and meaningful, while the anti-authoritarian makes that determination based on their own observation and experience. The latter approach is simply not acceptable in a standard school setting, and as a result, many anti-authoritarian types (I could add Edison to the list) have a great deal of trouble negotiating the school environment.

        Interestingly, some good studies in the ’70s showed that “ADHD” kids were virtually indistinguishable from “normal” kids in an open classroom environment. In other words, take away the authoritarian control and give the kids some freedom to make their own decisions, and ADHD seems to disappear.

        I think the author is RIGHT ON!

        —- Steve

        • I was diagnosed with ADD as a child, put on medication, and isolated from my peers in an attempt to get rid of any distractions. The more they isolated me the more inattentive I became, making straight F’s all through school while making 93% or higher on all of my end of grade exams. Miraculously, all of my symptoms disappeared as soon as I exited high school, after being told to drop out by a school counselor who handed me the papers to sign. I am now nearly 30, can successfully hold a job and run a household. I agree 100% with this blogger, and with Sam. They tried to push me and many other children into a mold that we didnt fit into. And when they couldn’t, they simply gave up on us and kicked us out of school altogether.

          • @ shannon that sounds almost exactly like my story! just let me point out though, when i wasn’t at school being forced to study, i passed most of my time reading. i was kicked out of two high schools before i dropped out of a third, and got my ged a few years later(in a single day, scoring in the top 1% of test takers.) i consider myself to be well read, well educated and well informed relative to most people around me. anyway, i think this article is spot on in that anti-authoritarian behavior is often dismissed as simply crazy in authoritaian settings.

          • Again, same experience here, although I still struggle in any organization or social setting that has any hint of hierarchy. While things certainly got better once I left school, I still find myself alienated.

          • Hear, hear. I have almost the exact same deal going on. I did drop out though, and I joined the military. That certainly didn’t go well… But, good luck to you.

        • Steve, yours is a very well-written and understandable explanation of what the author is saying. My first thought about your explanation is that the anti-authoritarian person is really most concerned with his or her integrity. This entire issue seems to me to be one of acting with personal integrity, especially when you consider that the definition of ODD includes the proviso that the individual is NOT acting in a manner that blatantly violates another person’s basic human rights, unlike with conduct disorder.

          This article explains a lot. I wish I had seen it when my children were much younger.

        • Hey, I was diagnosed with ADHD, expelled from two schools, achieved straight U grades in my A-Levels, was sent to a host of psychiatrists and psychologists and put on medication for my ‘condition’ – I ended up with serious drug problems at 19.

          I’m now 26, I’m a nearly 90kg athlete, have a degree in International Relations and outlearn and outperform a great many people my age.

          I’ve got an IQ in the top 1% of the population and my recruitment advisor is suggesting new roles for me of up to £50,000.

          I have taken one massive lesson from my experiences. I trust ME. I believe I am awesome and have – unlike many compliant individuals – have had to learn to trust MY assessment of myself, rather than anyone else’s.

          In retrospect, my intuitional dislike of certain authority figures was spot-on. They were all individuals I wouldn’t give a minute’s attention to as an adult.

          If you want to be compliant, don’t let me stop you. The most dangerous place to be is in-between, where you are non-compliant enough to cause aggravation but not confident enough to win on your own terms.

          My suggestion? Get big. Get tough. Get fierce and work HARD! Make it very clear that you are here to dominate and win on your own terms. Sometimes you have to bite your tongue – but everyone will know you have your own game plan eventually, just make sure to back it up with raw talent!

        • It’s true. When I was in high school, and beyond, I didn’t reject EVERY teacher – just the ones that were not very smart. The bright ones inspired me, and fostered my abilities – the dumb ones made me angry and I responded with a lot of bad behavior. I’m sure I would have been drugged, and I’m just as sure that I would not have taken the drugs.

      • I’m going to assume by the poverty of your grammar that you are not the brightest of thinkers. It’s also interesting that you invoke your experience as a social worker to demonstrate authority in a debate about authority. Revealing, really. But let me try and address your points anyways. The author is not arguing that everyone who resists authority is healthy. A seven year old who refuses to read may very well be suffering from some disorder. On the other hand, they might not be. The mere fact that they refuse to read is not the determinative factor in identifying healthy behaviors. And you claim the author has assumed that anti-authoritarian individuals have consciously chosen to resist authority. He has made no such claim. Whether a person consciously chooses to be healthy or not is not the sole determinant of their health. The point, I think, is that labeling a person with a disorder simply because they are unwilling to conform to authority is counterproductive and fails to acknowledge the useful and healthy functions served by anti-authoritarian individuals in society. Whatever assumptions you accuse the author of, it’s clear that you assume that the problem with an ODD labeled person is with that person, and not with the society in which they live.

        • John, good grammar or not, you are kind of an ass, which must be why you’re fond of the articles main point. But, I agree that having a proclivity towards rebelling against authority should not be discouraged in general, nor should it be your go to assessment question if you are a therapist. That said, this article is annoying. I’ll express some of my own anti-authoritarian skepticism and ask for a bit of evidence. Lovely that the author has an opinion, but lets have more than anecdote if you’re going to talk in a compelling way about why these diagnoses are problematic, who makes up the population of psychotherapists in this country, and presume to know exactly why it is they’re making these diagnoses. Maybe your book does a better job of it. I for one, am not anxious when I see a kid who is mildly unfocused or out of control, unless it’s truly extreme. My concern is that they develop enough insight and understanding to make choices that are going to be consistent with what they ultimately value. I wouldn’t characterize my colleagues as oppressive authoritarians either. Actually, quite the opposite. They tend to be some of the most accepting, supportive people I know. Some are, any group is diverse in their temperaments, but most of them are fairly thoughtful when it comes to issues like this, and try to be very careful about injecting their own values in place of a clients.

          • I’m a ‘consumer’ of therapists and counsellors, that is, I’ve been the client in many a Dr/Counsellor – Client relationship before. And those same people who seem so kind and supportive and non-judgemental to you seem sometimes quite challenging to me.

            Let me explain that I am fairly ‘sane’ on the spectrum of mental illness or mental health, I regularly get told I have a lot of insight into my own behaviour etc. and am able to examine and honestly reflect upon and evaluate my own experience.

            And yet I have fought with TWO counsellors over their manner and their agenda. This has ZERO to do with my illnesses (depression and mild anxiety) and everything to do with their inability to see me as the person in charge of my own mental health.

            One saw me crying hard (not hysterically just hard) and explaining how bad I felt as a distressing signal that I was very, very unwell. At the same time I had been thinking, this is the only place I feel safe enough to express these emotions. She thought I was so messed up that I needed to see someone with ‘better skills’ at dealing with my ‘complex issues’and told me all sorts of crazy stuff about how messed up I was and how I probably needed real, deep help. You know what my complex issues were? I wasn’t getting along with my lecturer and was feeling bullied. So I cried and got told I was too messed up for her to help. I know it is best practice for a counsellor to refer a client on if they can’t help them, but seriously, if you can’t deal with a client feeling bullied and crying, you probably need to be in a different field. She seemed used to having friendly chats about problems rather than real emotional responses from clients.

            I ended up walking out of the session, which was distressing for her too as she looked quite bad in front of her work colleagues.

            Another lady started trying to ‘challenge my mode of thinking’ only 2 sessions on in a new working relationship. She had decided that my thinking was the problem in my life, clearly. Not the issues I was having with work, family or friends, but me. And she was JUST the person to challenge me to break out of my rut. Even though she barely knew me yet. I thought I was going to the sessions to be listened to, supported and helped along the road to self-actualisation. Needless to say I didn’t go back.

            My point here is that along with 4 or 5 counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists I’ve seen since I voluntarily started seeing them 15 years ago, there have been a few who were unable to see me as a whole, intelligible, clever person let alone allow me the grace of an authority-free environment in order to work through my problems! And even amongst the good ones there were at times problems, which is fine and acceptable in a world where imperfect people assist other imperfect people to become healthier.

            But I have definitely felt cowed by the authority of these ‘experts’ on MY experience.

          • Well said, Nick. Especially this:

            “My concern is that they develop enough insight and understanding to make choices that are going to be consistent with what they ultimately value.”

            The key words being “insight” and being “consistent with what they ultimately value.”

            With ADHD, insight can be impaired to a mild or very great degree. Goals can be fleeting, too-far-in-the-future abstractions, so often never set or reached.

            Add ODD, and the person’s kneejerk rejection of any “rules” means rejecting even his own goals and what must be done to reach them.

        • John, if the best you can do is poke at someone’s grammar, you have no real argument. Grammar is not an indication of intelligence – it’s not even an indication of education level. It’s an indication of the ability to recall linguistic written patterns. That is all it indicates – not even how well one recalls other patterns. Everything you say is cheapened when you bring such a fallacy as ‘intelligence = good grammar’.

          • “John, if the best you can do is poke at someone’s grammar, you have no real argument.”

            I agree. So, I guess it’s a good thing he went on to give substantive refututations to every single point Nick made. What’s your point, exactly?

          • Technically speaking, yes – *proper* grammar most certainly *is* an indication of not only intellect, but also (and more importantly) Health.

            So many “mental” disorders are a result of the deformation / malformation of mind. To be PROPERLY formed is anyone’s goal, is it not?

            We instinctively “choose” languages that are “easy” to HEAR. Those who refuse to read are arguably not interested, due to a lack of RICH vocabulary. “Articulation” is a word that implies “value” and “maturity”. A great deal of frustration is had, in failure to comprehend language and grammatical structures.

            So, BOOYA!

        • John, John, John you poor Gubmint indoctrinated drone. We all make assumptions. Like I assume you still live in your Mom’s basement and don’t get laid unless you pay.

        • @ John: This blog and the responses are full of catch-22 logic conundrums, which everyone is trying to navigate. I was relieved to have a little levity, which came with your response–at first berrating someone’s poor grammar, then proceeding to commit numerous grammatical, syntax, and spelling errors.
          On the issue at hand, I think it is important to make a distinction between being a contrarion, which is often tolerated and encouraged despite the annoyance, and being anti-authoritarian, which, in psychiatric parlance, usually implies an unreasoned reaction to authority figures.

          • What is the proper response to contemptible behavior, if not contempt?

            At what point does it become permissible to openly show one’s disdain for venality, mendacity, and hypocrisy?

            When is it proper to ignore or oppose so-called authorities that have demonstrated themselves to be incompetent, untrustworthy, disinterested, or uninformed?

            When may one say “No” and be respected, rather than shamed or bullied (or medicated) into compliance?

      • I find it interesting that you claim that the writer assumes “that those with ODD are consciously choosing their behaviour”. Levine states, however, that he is struck by “(1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians, and (2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.” “How many”, not “all”.

        This is a common occurrence, in my experience, where authoritarians when attacking a statement by an opponent tend to over-generalize and claim that a statement about some portion of a set is somehow equivalent to a statement about any/all elements of a set. They do this because it makes it easier to attack, but it is of course disingenuous.

        Further, the example of Alinsky does not show “a 7 year old who refuses to read or practice reading”, it shows a very astute 7 year old who has realized (in the context of a capitalist society), and after being paid for a successful completion of a task, that he might be able to set a price for his labor. Rude? Perhaps. Oppositional? Sure. Within reason? I think so… it is certainly clever! The Rabbi’s response of slamming him against the wall, rather than perhaps trying to convince him of the difference between a reward versus payment for service, that is the contemptible behavior, and the Rabbi is the one who should be diagnosed as ill since the child’s behavior certainly did not warrant such an attack.

        Herb, I certainly should not choose or recommend you for treatment, given what you have revealed in your brief message. But hey, maybe you’ll be retiring soon, huh?

      • A 7 year old could have excellent reading skills. My biggest problem word as a kid was island. Comics were big enjoyable as a kid. Elementary school reading material not so much. In the fifth grade Mrs. Green got tired of watching me try to select a book from the carousel and came over and handed me a book by Lester Del Ray, Runaway Robot.That started my love of science fiction. I picked up More than human by Theodore Sturgeon at home after that. Even after that, If I ended up in a new school, I somehow ended up in a remedial reading program till I gave smart ass answers to the questions at the end of stories. I still read SF and history books, Sir Captain Richard Francis Burton, William Blake.

        Stop handing 7 year olds drivel.

      • I have studied some developmental psychology and have great friends who work as teachers, and it is widely known that the mental hardware for reading comes online at different stages of a human life. For some kids, the hardware needed to effectively learn to read doesn’t come online until as late as 8. Now, if you try to bully a child into doing what they cannot, they are likely to form a barrier to the activity. So, you try to force a child to learn what they are not ready to, you use intimidation, and you leave them questioning their self-worth, and then you are surprised when they aren’t interested in reading later in life? Come on, who wants to interact with activities associated with humiliation and judgment?

        This is all variable. I taught myself to read at age 3, and other are able to be taught early, but some are not. The industrial model of education, which does not take into account individual desires and impulses nor individual cognitive development, is antiquated and obsolete. It is a remnant of the Industrial Era, and no modern educational thinker sees it as relevant, and yet, the majority of children are still put into it, and we are surprised when they aren’t interested in conforming. We are still telling students to memorize information they can look up on Wikipedia, while refusing to go deeper into the principles which underly our own culture, which children, being incredibly perceptive and very intuitive, know is going down the drain. So, yeah, kids who won’t sit down and learn to read while their parents are destroying the biosphere are obviously the messed up ones. Sarcasm FTW.

        • thank you. I too taught myself to read- at two.. but my brother whose IQ is 10 points up the scale from me at 146 didn’t read until 8. We both are ADHD and both struggled with college- I refuse to jump thru hoops. I am hoping to return next year- I’ll be 41 then. I was a serious goody-two-shoes all thru school.. would never have described myself as anti-authoritarian back then- but that is definitely who I am!!! I now medicate with cannabis after having part of my brain fried with big pharma drugs (long term memory is gone- and mine was almost photographic) and my whole health is better.. plus- promoting cannabis legalization has brought out my inner anti-authoritarian.. ;P

          • I prefer the term, “decriminalization” – wouldn’t you agree? Cannabis (pot, dope, marijuana) is a CRIMINAL activity / offense (punishable, by law). I believe many who enjoy toking would appreciate the absence of “paranoia” invoking side-effect (no doubt, a consequence of CRIMINALIZATION). Let’s not forget that pot *is* psyche-active, and that can be VERY good, when navigated appropriately. It sure is a “gateway” drug … yeah, a gateway TO YOUR OWN MIND.

        • Human children are born wanting to learn. The rapid acquisition of adult knowledge and skills was crucial to their survival in the ancestral environment, and so natural curiosity and mental plasticity was selected for over thousands of generations. It takes enormous amounts of effort to render children incurious and inflexible, yet that is precisely what our public education system manages to accomplish. It has been intelligently argued (by Gatto, et al) that this in fact the precise purpose of the public schools: to produce an ignorant, docile workforce that is easy to manage and manipulate.

          • “There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”

      • so a 7 year old who doesn’t want to read is ill….I think you need to look at your profession with new eyes….stop labelling people….and it is healthy to rebel against authority when it is wrong….or do all the rebels in the middle east suffer from ODD….if something is wrong….rebel against it…just because authority says something is right doesn’t neccessarily make it so….If that was the case You’d still be living in a British Colony…think about that for a minute

      • A 7 year old who doesn’t want to read has not been told *why* it is important and has not been given the right incentives. The reason “because mommy says so” or “you just have to” might and should make anyone say no. The right explanations and incentives will possible take the (illegitimate) authority out of the issue and make compliance much easier.

        I fully agree with this blog that it’s high time we learn to differentiate between a true mental illness and a variation of behaviour we just don’t like.

      • Herb – Your point is valid. Obviously not every kid who’s diagnosed with “ODD” is an “anti-authoritarian free-thinker”; and therein lies Levine’s flawed logic.

        In fact after having worked in the public school system for nearly 25 years, I can tell you that a LARGE portion of these kids who are diagnosed with “whatever the current things is” actually have a condition called B.R.A.T.S.! And that a huge number of the administrators in these institutions have precisely zero capacity for independent thought!

        HOWEVER!! I also agree with the blogger (and Levine) that today’s society is rampant with idiots and Drones who got where they are simply by NOT questioning, and NOT bothering to think for themselves. (How else could we possibly have arrived at the point where we have a President of a country designed as a Republic, who is an avowed Socialist, unless people who never bother to think, went to the polls?)

      • >>So a 7 year old who refuses to read or practice reading is healthy anti-authority individual?

        >>Or older individuals who rebel because it is authority are really ok?

        Excellent points! Or theyb would be if either of those arguments had been made.

        But they weren’t.

      • A 7 year old refusing to read could have a lot of reasons behind it. I also work as an LCSW-I think that there are times that someone has ADHD/ADD or a child has ODD, but its overly diagnosed and people miss cultural and societal variations. I also see ODD and ADHD misdiagnosed when it should be PTSD and was trauma induced stress and anxiety, not ADHD.

      • I have dealt with several health proffessionals (msws, lmfts,psychologists) in dealing with the family court industry which is a big employer to many of their jobs and could relate to the authors points. If you dont agree with their assesment or diagnosis your labeled something anti-authoritative and risk not being able to see your kids and paying endlessely to support a very authoratative based Industry that in my opinion perpetuates a cycle that is money driven.In the end I didnt see my kids for 2 years and was diagnosed with nothing.I had 2 different psychologists 1 contradicting the other 1 and several lmfts, mfts all with varying opinions.

      • I would suggest a 7 year old who ‘won’t’ read, probably can’t. Have they been carefully checked for dyslexia, including Meares-Irlen colour spectrum glasses? Its commoner than you might think.

        If children don’t enjoy reading, possibly something is amiss in either the teaching, the books chosen, or undiagnosed dyslexia? (of which there are far too many).

        In my opinion all children should be checked in their fist school year for both kinds of dyslexia. It would save a fortune in the long term, and stop wasted years of detesting education.

    • The authoritarians are not going away, unfortunately. They are generating more and more restrictive rules, but at least some of these rules contradict others of these rules. Authoritarians are not necessarily deep thinkers who analyse the implications of their actions.

      Consider compulsory bicycle helmet legislation. Many of you, for example, are required to use threats to coerce your children into using dangerous and potentially fatal mind-altering substances. This is because the adverse effects of heat are not allowed for in bike helmet legislation. At the same time, coercing children into using substances that kill several hundred people each year is somewhat illegal.

      This is only one example of why authority is not loved by many of us. I have no problem obeying the laws of physics because they are consistent, anchanging, and – however constricting – they make sense. How I wish I could say the same for many of society’s laws.

    • This is ME all over. I was that fourth grader that dared to stand up in the middle of class and say, “We don’t want homework!” The other kids didn’t go along with it and I was immediately sent to a shrink. Of course, all the kids wanted to play, especially since 1967 was one of those years the Red Sox were gonna win, right? But no one wanted to be aligned with me and stand up for what they truly believed in.

      When I told my psychiatrist in 2013 that it seemed the night staff on certain local psych wards deliberately slept on the job (which was often joked about among patients) my psychiatrist said, “You must be paranoid,” and insisted I take more drugs. So I began to notice whenever I complained about poor quality care, my psychiatrist insisted on this “paranoia” label. I bought into it until I realized this psychiatrist herself was delusional, or at least blinded by too much income. How could she believe that all people working in the MH field were excellent quality, competent, honest, cared more about patients than about their money and reputation…No, she was old enough to know reality. My psychiatrist, I conclude, was delusional.

      When I took out a human rights complaint against a hospital, I was told that I had anger issues. I was told that taking out a human rights case reflected that I “didn’t want to get better.” I was told that I was delusional that the human rights laws existed. I was told that the human rights laws were unimportant and that I needed to drop the case and focus on “treatment.” I was finally threatened and told that if I didn’t shut up in my blog about psychiatric abuse, I would be forcibly drugged until I was incapable of writing, and my shrink tried to withhold treatment if I didn’t agree to her drugs.

      None of their tactics worked. After three and a half decades, I am FREE. ALIVE! Thank god for the antipsychiatry movement…I am not alone in this. Thank you for writing this article…It is SOOOOOO validating and true. I am not the only one.

      I healed and continue to heal from their abuse because I remain an activist. I am well because I do not shut up. I am a writer. My words, my life. Julie Greene

  1. Isn’t there always an element of dissent and rebellion to whatever someone’s emotional suffering gets labelled? Recovery, I think, depends on whether someone is helped to make their dissent and rebellion conscious, and finds a way to express it in a constructive, responsible way, instead of through “symptoms”.

    • “Isn’t there always an element of dissent and rebellion to whatever someone’s emotional suffering gets labelled? Recovery… ”

      Recovery? Recovery from what? Emotional suffering is human. Humanity is not a condition we need to recover from.

      • True, but getting stuck in our pain and frustration and unable to see a way out is definitely a condition we need to recover from. Some people need help to understand themselves, to consciously recognize the content and legitimacy of their angst and change it from a generalized, directionless “Argh!” into purposeful action. (Note: “purposeful” does not necessarily mean socially acceptable. Also, I recognize that people who are not very introspective and need help to understand themselves come from ALL societal and psychiatric categories – not just anti-authoritarians.)

        • True, people do need to “understand themselves”. But this neither means someone should be diagnosed or medicated. If anything that will take them further away from themselves. Of course, constructive discourse can be very beneficial. But the psychiatric institutions are the problem, they don’t treat people like individuals and promote real constructive and personal discourse. Maybe some progressive therapists can help with this, I don’t know. But for the most part these institutions just try to squeeze everyone into categories as if people are objects.

        • Yes, but embedded in that assumption is the interpretation that human problems are based only in individual perceptions,not in experiences of external structures and conditions, PLUS the crazy arrogance that the therapist is the one to “correct” the client’s “limited perspective” on their own problems. Many times people are “stuck” not b/c of their perceptions and matters, but b/c of very real structural, economic, educational and other limitations. The placement of the problem in individual perception rather than conditions allows therapists to ignore very real social conditions, essentially blame the individual, and set themselves up as a teacher or fixer to “fix” the client by essentially telling them what to think and/or feel differently. It’s repulsive. This is my problem with CBT. What ever happened to the notion from positive psychology that the individual has wisdom? If you teach people to doubt themselves, you’re helping to create another generation of sheep in the name of mental health.

      • Moschops, I believe Marian was trying to say that anti-authoritarian behavior should be channeled through constructive means. Your argument is immature because you are arguing one semantic word, and refusing to try to understand her entire argument. She didn’t say they need to recover from humanity, but that they should express it constructively, not just by spiteful symptoms of being stubborn and difficult toward illegitimate autority figures.

        • I’m not quite happy with the term “recovery” myself. First of all, because I do not believe that being a human being is an illness — and usually “recovery” is associated with “illness” — but also because “recovery” means “to regain a normal position or condition (as of health)”, Merriam-Webster, and I don’t think recovery is, or should be, about regaining anything, least of all the “normal position or condition” that has made crisis a necessity, but rather about discovery — for instance of the fact that the “normal position or condition” maybe isn’t that desirable, after all — and transformation — for instance of the obviously unbearable “normal position or condition” into a more sustainable position or condition”. I used the term here purely for convenience.

          “Humanity is not a condition we need to recover from.” Agreed! Still, I think that one aspect of our humanity metaphorically (!) could be described as a “condition” we need to work towards, well not recovering from, but overcoming: unconsciousness.

      • It sounds like Marian is talking about recovering from “dissent and rebellion to whatever someone’s emotional suffering gets labelled.” In other words, the clinical psychology labels make one feel bad, and then one has to recover from that.

      • I agree that the anger is NORMAL and shouldn’t be medicated, but how do we convince other people not to go back to the MH system to heal from psychiatric abuse? The MH system offers “trauma help” and the system makes themselves tempting as candy to a kid.

        I would like to challenge any person who states they have been traumatized…I’ll bet most were traumatized worse in “treatment” than in the situation that sent them to the shrinks. I myself once went running to a hospital, saying, “Help! This other hospital ABUSED me! Please, cure me of my trauma!” I would go to therapists and beg to be “cured,” not realizing I was running back into the fire.

        I don’t use the word “recovery.” My choice.

        Julie

  2. Thanks for this superb blog post Bruce which is so inspiring and encouraging as I am just such an anti-authoritarian, and at nearly 60yrs old there is no sign of this abating. It’s a useful trait in surviving the psychiatric system and in the activism required to bring about change.

    I’m going to Email your post to all my Scottish contacts as a celebration.

    Regards, Chrys

  3. Great post, Bruce. Einstein, Churchill, MLK, Galileo, Martin Luther, Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Gandhi, Mandela, Jesus, Buddha . . . anti-authoritarians all, thank goodness. Today, I fear we are drugging the greatness out of our future prophets and visionaries. As MLK said, society will be saved by the “creatively maladjusted.”

  4. I certainly agree with everything you are saying. As a child I was totally allergic to authority at home and at school. If I thought something arbitrary or unfair, I just didn’t do it.I made my life difficult as well as the life of my teachers and parents. Luckilly I was young at a time when children didn’t get diagnosed and drugged. We got a clip around the earhole: much healthier than psychiatric drugs. You would call it child abuse now a days. It didn’t do me any harm. But what about psychiatric drugs? In my view that is proper child abuse. At the end I did break down. Looking back it was the best thing that happened to me and helped me to grow up a much nicer and more sensible person: no medication, just love and tender care. I was lucky!

    • This is similar to my own childhood experience – though, being (I suspect) younger (and from the UK), when this all came to a head in my 15th year, I did not end up being sent to a mental health professional – but I had been many times before. My head teacher insisted I receive counselling because I consistently challenged her. She was NOT a good head teacher and had a totalitarian attitude (attempting to dictate the colour underwear students ware with their uniforms, among other things). Luckily for me, it was the school Councillor who ultimately provided my ‘treatment’ – a woman who knew first hand how bad the head teacher was. Had I been treated by anyone outside, I would have been in for a much more aggressive treatment than the eventual hour of video games or reading that my Councillor arranged for.

  5. I read this on Alternet.org. Good to see it here. I’m sick of arguing with pro-child-drugging people who say that psychiatrists test to make sure the child can not pay attention to anything, not just school work, before diagnosing them. Bull effin scyte they do! I would have never imagined hearing that argument, but then I did. Blew my mind. There’s people who actually believe that some sort of science-based evaluation goes on in the psychiatrists office that identifies a real attention deficit.

  6. So according to mainstream Mental Health Professionals our first president George Washington who led the struggle against the British authoritarian can be diagnose as Anti-Authoritarians with Mental Illness.

  7. @Bruce: Glad to see all this criticism against especially mental health “professionals” and society in general. So constructive and clearly put, that you earned my purchase of your book “Commonsense Rebellion”. Thanks, and keep spreading these thoughts!

  8. Reading the part where you described how they go into those ‘diagnostics’ made me sick, that’s seriously fucked up…
    how can one jump into a conclusion that someone has a mental disease because he questions things, misbehave(specially in early age)? wtf? to me, that’s part of what being a child is…
    I’d hate if I had a son who accepted blindly everything he was taught, I’d think he is dumb…

    that really shows the ugliest face of psychiatry and psychology, it’s imperative to have an ethic and general guidelines for this way of using the ‘science’ for normalization of the people not happen!

    I’ve also always been against authority I will even refrain to describe or I’ll extend myself too much, but I always get shivers thinking I could have been medicated and gone through normalizing psychology since child…

    • “I’d hate if I had a son who accepted blindly everything he was taught, I’d think he is dumb…”

      And what about if you had such a daughter? Would that be okay?

      • Why is gender of any consequence whatsoever? My in-laws had two anti-authoritarian daughters, and as the husband of one I could not be happier. My spouse is easily the most interesting person I know, and by far one of the brightest. Our conversations are never trivial, which is a profound relief after a day at work where the banality can be epic.

        As to the wider topic, my children all have learning disabilities, but thanks mostly to my spouse’s efforts, all of them are excelling despite both of us being told by supposed experts (authorities) that they would never read or write, and would have to be institutionalized. Two are now at the top of their respective classes; so much for the experts. We’ve been careful to teach our progeny that blind obedience to authority has caused some of the worst scourges of the past century, and to never allow themselves to be cowed by authority figures. Instead, we’ve encouraged them to collect data for themselves and where practical, test the pronouncements of authority figures before proceeding. That has led to some interesting times in our household, but we have found that so long as our children are given the information necessary to come to a reasonable conclusion, they almost always do so. What they’ve been taught has made school a little difficult at times, but they’ve discovered that if you are doing well on your grades, you’re given much more leeway by the staff. Our kids are nothing if not Machiavellian sometimes.

        One thing my family has observed that a common trait of abusive authority figures is an over-abundance of arrogance, and a belief in self-infallibility. The idea that they may not have all of the answers (or even all of the information) does not occur to them, and the more education they have had, the worse this problem is. We’ve seen few exceptions to this. Further, there is a tendency to prescribe solutions which are heavily canted towards whatever specialization the authority figure is familiar with. Hence, medication as a remedy for behavior (treating the symptom) rather than searching for the underlying cause of the behavior. A case in point is aggressive behavior brought on by food allergies; remove the food and the behavior disappears in a matter of days. However, a psychiatrist would prescribe a drug instead of suggesting a trip to an allergist.

        There is, in this age, a tendency to make decisions based on a narrow field of knowledge far more often than is healthy. The results can be devastating to individuals, and those causing the devastation are often ignorant of the results of their actions.

        None of us can be experts in everything, but we are all sufficiently intelligent to understand the basics, and to know when it is time to ask “why”, and to stand our ground especially when the answer is “because I said so.”

        • Wow, this is so perfectly said! Hear, hear!! Mike you really hit the nail on the head far more precisely than I ever could!! Hell, I’d say you smashed that f8cker! You are so GOD DAMN RIGHT! I really appreciate your clarity and the spirit behind everything that you say here. Take care man, and Kudos to you!

  9. I agree with the sentiment regarding anti-authoritarianism in general with regards to the societal pressures placed on individuals who are generally high functioning critical thinkers. I associate with the author’s idea of pressured conformity in professional training as I myself have gone through it as someone who is critical of authorities that lack merit.
    To a large extent the point made about the state of psychiatric ‘standard of care’ is also correct. However in reading the previous comments I feel like the message of the blog post may have come off a little extreme. For example, a truly schizophrenic patient that is medication non-compliant is a major risk to themselves, their families and society in general. A true diagnosis of schizophrenia, not just an isolated incident of mania, is usually a lifelong diagnoses and struggle for managing the effect of the disease on a patient’s quality of life. The author, being a trained psychologist, is probably well aware that the cure rate for schizophrenia, even with medication, is only about 30%. The point more generally is that not all psychiatric conditions are equal and some actually necessitate authoritarian interventions for the sake of all.
    With regards to ADHD and ODD I tend to agree with the author more in that we are effectively anesthetizing creative minds for the most part at a young age for superficial reasons. The author also presents what is a well known fact among college students and young professionals, that stimulants and anxiolytics of all forms are abused to deal tedious tasks. I think that the emotions provoked by this blog post, seen in the comments, are a positive thing. However, criticizing all psychiatrists or health care professionals involved in the treatment of mental disorders seems like it would allow the problem to persist. I think it would be more effective to focus on what exactly needs to change (in terms of societal structure and the appropriation of mental health care) if one truly wishes to start the wheels of a paradigm shift.

    • Chris says: “the cure rate for schizophrenia, even with medication, is only about 30%”
      To begin with, the “cure rate” for “schizophrenia” only goes UP, when “medications” aren’t used. Maintaining a behavior considered by the subjective authoritarian opinions of the psychiatrists to be docile (while using mind numbing drugs), does not correspond with recovery at all. In fact, with “medications” there is no recovery in any true sense of the word, only a person addicted to medications (with possible side effects that include psychosis) and very severe and devastating withdrawal symptoms; all conveniently labeled as symptoms of the “disease” instead. Although there are very clear methods that do effect recovery and a cure (methods which are quite cost effective and have more than 30% recovery rate) these aren’t acknowledged at all. Instead there’s tens of billions of dollars spent on methods which effect no known cure but which log in profits for the drug companies (and then this profit is also listed as a “cost” of schizophrenia in order to make it sound like there’s more need for a cure; a cost which wouldn’t be there if what is known to cure schizophrenia was actually acknowledged).
      All one has to do is do an Internet search for “schizophrenia recover without medications” or “cure for schizophrenia without medications” or such wordings. Or figure out your own way to find such information. And you will find amazing stories, and methods, and individuals, and groups, and books all which have stories how this supposed organic disease actually can be cured and full recovery is possible (without “medications”); and how this enlightens a person about the human condition. And all of this is pretty much completely NOT acknowledged by the drug companies. In fact, one can’t speak at all of statistics when methods that have been truly effective aren’t at all acknowledged to exist, and actually suppressed.
      And again. “Medications” for “schizophrenia” only suppress the whole personality, they suppress warning signals to underlying emotional trauma; trauma which needs to be dealt with, and let go of, and there are numerous methods to help one deal with this. Suppressing these warning signals does not help towards any sort of cure or recovery. That’s just acting like an underlying cause which needs attention doesn’t exist when it does. This suppression then, in reality, in reality-based-thinking is a behavior which shows much more clearly all the behaviors of “mental illness” than the people who are being suppressed with the drugs. This also has caused only MORE mental illness, more cost, more disability, and more paranoia against a natural response that when dealt with for what it is (without suppressing the warning signals in an attempt to cover up the underlying cause) could change people’s lives for the better, and create a more enlightened understanding of the human condition for all of society.

      • Since when is the diagnosis of schiz always correct? 100% of the time? Yet 100% of the time, these people are coerced into taking antipsychotics or forcibly drugged. Quite rarely does a person with a schiz diagnosis get out of the drugging unscathed. I was totally WRONGLY diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Never had it. Never. Now we are talking about three and a half decades of participating in programs and being cooperative and taking their pills. However, I’d gone to them originally because of an eating disorder. There was no such “diagnosis” in 1981…so they came up with “schizoaffective.” I ended up a lifer, and would be there still. I guess when my body said, “NO MORE!” I began to question the whole thing. Amazing I’m not dead. Most are.

        So you are saying that these meds for “true schizophrenia” are good and right…but what constitutes this “true” diagnosis and what separates those that are “truly” schizophrenic from the majority, I’d say myself and many others I’ve spoken with over the years, that accidentally got stuck with the diagnosis? Are there ANY “true schizophrenics”? I know someone who suffered psychosis… there was a medical cause…for others it was temporary due to adolescent seizures, for another, severe paranoia fear reaction, temporary reaction to severe abuse that anyone would experience…surely NORMAL under the circumstances. True schiz? Find one.

    • Schizophrenia has been understood differently in different times, places and cultures. Context is everything. One interesting study showed that recovery rates are higher in third world countries, which lack a psychiatric apparatus. If people listen to the meaning of their “psychotic” thoughts, they can work through them and thus put them to rest. If they squelch those thoughts with drugs, the issues are never fully addressed, and they end up in that chronic state that most people in the US would take for “schizophrenia”.

  10. As conditions continue to deteriorate in the US and more and more people begin to speak up, psychiatry is going to be increasingly used as a tool to quell such opposition. I mean, one must be “crazy” to fight against injustice, corruption and call for the rule of law. Look at it this way, the psychotic business and political elite that kill people aren’t diagnosed as ill, but the person who is anxious or depressed is diseased? Psychiatry is a tool of the elite and will be employed more as more people wake up from their trance and fight back.

    • Never before (in America) has the assault on the individual been greater. Never mind the hideous historical examples of collectivism and the mass murder used to enforce them (Bolshevists, Stalinists, Trostkyists, Nazis, Maoists, ad naseum). The collectivists press on, using every institutional weapon at their disposal – from the mass dumbing down through the Dept of ‘Education’ (mind control/brainwashing), to ‘public health’ (including mental ‘health’). What’s different between the previous attacks on humanity and today is the passive aggressive nature of the assailants; their methods straight out of Tavistock (the real life Orwellian practice of it being the UK and their population of zombified sheep that passes for people). It’s the iron fist concealed in the velvet glove and the malevolent control freak wearing the PC/bleeding heart mask of ‘helper’. What the previous murderous systems had in common was they all labeled non conformist, dissenters and free thinkers as ‘mentally ill’ and in need of re-education. It was gulags, mental asylums, and firing squads back then. Today it’s big pharma and their useful idiots who are all throughout our society; teachers unions pimping for ADHD & ODD diagnoses and school personnel passing out pills, the CDC and the WHO cooking up fake pandemics to push their toxic vaccines for profit; the boobtube with it’s non stop peddling of hazardous chemicals as remedies. Meanwhile, our governments and institutions are completely infiltrated with sociopaths who are destroying the country and the planet! And these are the people who set the standards to which everyone else is to conform. If we don’t want to play their game, there’s something wrong with us. The establishment regularly engages in mass murder (war) and yet we’re the crazy ones. Every institution and discipline in our society serves this establishment (if they want funding) and to play one must conform. I was always one who questioned authority, was anti authoritarian, anti totalitarian. Because of the relentless push to herd us all into a homogenized, standardized, harmonized, brave new world order slave plantation of chemically managed robots, I’ve now gone from liberal-libertarian to anarchist. My only regret is that I’m pushing 60 and I’m getting too old to join the next revolution that MUST come if the younger generations are to save themselves and their liberty from these dangerous know it all do-gooders who would snuff out their humanity in their never ending quest for the perfectly ordered hive.

  11. How much of this is just parents being parents? Nothing brings out authoritarianism like parenthood. ADHD and ODD are diagnoses that parents seek, and some doctors are happy to oblige them. Ditto for the medication.

    Children have been dealing with authoritarian parents for millennia. The only dangerous aspect here is that psychiatric medication is an entirely new means of parental repression. It might be less cruel and less total than the power parents have had at times in the past, but drugs might have new and unfortunate developmental consequences, if indeed they have any long-term effect at all.

    • I became an educational consultant and private tutor who specializes in highly gifted and creative kids in 1995, the year our 2 kids (then ages 6 and 9)were mislabled and recommended for Ritalin. At that time, thousands, if not tens of thousands of children across the U.S. were told by their teachers that there was something wrong with them and they needed medication in order to focus and sit still. Yes, teachers (not parents) were “diagnosing” these students.
      What I discovered was that all the literature that was being given to the schools and to psychologist and psychologists was provided by Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), the makers of Ritalin. Even the advocacy group CHADD got on the bandwagon to try to convince legislators to remove Ritalin from the Type-II substance list, so that more could be produced. Ritalin (and now Adderall, Concerta, etc.) was known as “teacher’s little helper”. Parents were sold a bill of goods and became convinced that the only way for their child to learn and pay attention was to use a drug that has a street value, can be addictive, and does indeed have some serious side effects. No long-term studies have been done to determine the effects of these methamphetamines on growing minds and bodies. No one bothered to tell the parents that, however!
      What’s really wrong here is that no one is considering the underlying causes of the symptoms. Here are the results of my ADHD study which I call “The Gifted/ADHD Connection”: http://ow.ly/8GIuV

      This is a case of left-brained teachers and psychologists failing to understand right-brained, creative individuals who tend to challenge the status quo and can be a bit eccentric. They also have unique cognitive, academic, psychological, and even physiological differences – and many have extremely high IQ’s – facts that are often unchecked or ignored. There is a reason why the incidence of ADHD is so slight within the homeschooling population. Once these kids are free to be themselves and learn in ways that work best for them, the symptoms frequently disappear. PS: Our kids asked to leave public school that year. They homeschooled all the way through high school and graduated from college – all without Ritalin.

      • Good for you! I love hearing about pro active parents who are willing to actually PARENT. Home schooling can be a big part of the solution to thwart the intrusion of big pharma and their conformist purveyors. I have never known a creative person who isn’t eccentric and ‘out of the box’. The box is a soul killer for many, many kids.

        • I’m so happy to read this! I’m about a day away from pulling my 7th grade boy out of public school. I’ve been beyond frustrated with the lack of willingness on the administration’s part to accommodate the way he operates! He’s not so much a “think outside the box” kid, as he is a “there’s a box?” kid. I love him that way! Public education has been the battlefield for most of his personality quirks, but he attended a fabulous neighborhood elementary school and his teachers were ALWAYS willing to tweak his day to keep him on his toes and constantly academically, intellectually and socially stimulated. This year, though, has been a nightmare. My husband and I refuse to medicate him, believing (among other things) that drugs are foisted on parents in order to make classrooms more manageable. He totally fits the bill of anti-authoritarian – as do 2 of our other 3 kiddos, as well as my husband and me. I want my kids to THINK for themselves and come to their own conclusions about the world in which they live – no matter what that conclusion is.

          • Consider homeschooling. My youngest son was doing high school level work when we tried to move from a private school to a public school. They would only place him according to age so he had to be in seventh grade. Every day he was rebelling and angry and the school was unwilling to consider any options. I took out out and homeschooled him. It took two years to undo the damage done by the school but he is now a happy well adjusted adult. Your child is worth looking at options outside the system.

  12. I find the very phrase “oppositional defiant disorder” causes something to wish to rebel inside of me, I wonder how much of a reaction against what appears as an unquestionable manifestation of a group ego is taken to be an insult, certainly having a childhood experiencing a parental authority that absolutely had no authority anywhere else in life may have sensitised me to this (or perhaps this is my manifestation of what this industry would class a chemically modifiable disorder).

    An authority questioned is as good as an authority mocked, and mocking those who have investment in the “one true way” has historically not often resulted in beneficial consequences for the ones performing the act of mocking, unless of course, there are enough of them.

    Personally, my belief is that if something cannot tolerate questioning it must be such a pitifully fragile structure so as to not warrant existence or at least any respect. Alas, in this world, people have worse things than inappropriate psychiatric treatment done to them for their expression and refusal to accept.

    What I am absolutely certain of, is that authority and rules are not always right simply because an authority declares it so. I feel something is eerily close to punishing thoughtcrime here.

    Anyway, this is just my uneducated, authority consensus free, perspective from a random reader on the internet. Obviously, some folk do need extensive intervention lest there be an unfortunate aftermath outcry of “why didn’t the authority do anything about them?”.

    • “I find the very phrase “oppositional defiant disorder” causes something to wish to rebel inside of me”

      It’s because you’re being CHARGED and found “guilty” of a “fatal flaw”, an “error”, a “bad” thing. It’s not a positive, it’s not HELPFUL or useful or beneficial, in any way, shape or form. ALL of these “diagnostics” are fundamentally NEGATIVE.

      The “mental illness” / “mental health” industry seeks (intentionally looks for) what is “WRONG” – and that is what is wrong. They need to be looking for and IDENTIFYING that which is good and right and CORRECT. More often than not, *this* is the reason why we have troubles & problems to begin with: we do not know our talent, skill, gift or ability – and we do require support from others, to help us see these things in ourselves. Oh, but a society who’s culture is CAPITALISTS, extreme in competition, nearly hell-bent to be the most ultimate victorious, grand and glorious one … well, HELL – that requires a whole mega-ton of losers then, doesn’t it?

  13. I am an anti-authoritarian and used to be an activist and an organizer, and this has caused any number of difficulties in life.

    However, it is also the case that, starting in my teenage years, I started to have alternating periods of depression and excitement. It is the case that, in my early 20s, I would have full-blown manic episodes, the kind that are indistinguishable from psychosis. In recent years, every six weeks, I had a depression that would render me unable to leave my bed, to do anything but imagine ways of committing suicide. This was so regular an occurrence that I could actually put it in my calendar and plan for it. I have a completely unambiguous bipolar mood disorder that has nothing to do with the society or a compulsion to obey authority. I have it now, and I had it in the years when I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by an active anarchist community, and have a life that was free of any obligation to which I had not voluntarily committed myself. After years of trying everything else, I finally saw a psychiatrist and got a prescription. That has basically fixed me, and has not blunted my rebellious nature at all.

    I think this article has a lot of valid points, and that there is a serious problem with over-medicating and over-diagnosis. However, the reactionary response of simply discarding all of psychiatry–especially psychiatric drugs–is just plain stupid, I can’t imagine anyone who has had to deal with serious mental illness thinking otherwise. Yes, my nephew is a normal kid who has a school psychiatrist that wants to put him on medication for ADD, when it’s obvious the real problem is that they have forty kids to every teacher. But I’ve also met ADD people who nearly incapable of finishing a sentence, and quite unable to take care of themselves, and they have been grateful for pharmaceutical assistance.

    I’m still an anarchist, and I still have trouble getting along in society. But now I don’t have an involuntarily and complete emotional collapse six times a year. That’s a good thing, for me and for the broader movement.

    • As someone who has bipolar II disorder and add, I completely agree. I have noticed that those who do not accept someone else’s authority have no problem asserting their own.

    • Thank you! Not on meds myself, but I have many friends who really DO need their meds to feel truly themselves, and they get pretty damn pissy whenever anyone says they’re just conforming to society’s wishes. No, sometimes, your brain chemistry really IS out to get you.

  14. when i was in high school i was kind, received decent grades, placed in ap classes, but i had a major problem with alcohol, and not in the “par-tay, let’s have fun” kind of way. i would finish a lot of alcohol by myself to self medicate. my indian tribe is a bunch of alcoholics so it came natural for me to turn to a bottle when in dispair. i racked up a bunch of underage drinking fines before i was 20, forever to remain on my criminal record. after my 21st birthday i no longer saw the point in drinking and going out to parties in college or at the bars- not because i was anti-authoritarian, but because drinking had run it course. i learned that it was not the type of behavior that made me the best person i could be. so i stopped. and i made it to that conclusion on my own terms- no external involvement needed.

    the thing that drives me into depression (i no longer turn to alcohol, yay me) is that past and how that snippet of my life affects how i feel about my worth and life now. i do not understand why an external authority has the power to hold my past decisions above my head. my drinking was self-destruction and only self-destruction, no one else was in pain over my actions besides me. society, mainly the government, has told me how to live my life when they have no idea what and who i am.

    i love to learn new things every single day and i want to contribute to society in every and any way possible. however, i have this lingering fear and hatred of the authority that thinks the way they are going about the whole “we have control over what goes into your body” thing (i am not talking about abortion). they do not know what is best for us, me or you, but somehow they get to make decisions for us. i have somewhat gone on a rant here…

    all i am saying is that my depression DOES come from authority in my life. life is beautiful and is a privilege, the only thing wrong and sad about it is having others make decisions in a life that is not theirs. it is sad and infuriating. thank you for the article.

    • Great Rant! and Yes our lives should be our own to either screw up or excel. Every time we turn around these days someone is taking another bite out of our freedom or exerting some authority over us. It is obvious that you are a very strong, thoughtful and brave person to accomplish what you have mentally and emotionally. You are right, life is beautiful – we just need reminders now and then. Thanks for reminding me!

    • Nope. If you read Foucault’s history, he was a member of the communist party in France for only a few years. He “rebelled” (note) against the authoritarianism of the party and was appalled by the behaviour of the Soviet dictatorship.

      A quick look up on Wikipedia will tell you this.

      More so, Foucault was a great supporter of the individuals resistance to control and the defining nature of power relationships.

      He was a critic of mental health policies and practices (see ‘The Birth of the Clinic’) as well as authoritarianism (‘Discipline and Punish’).

      To say ‘Foucault was a communist’ and to in some way infer that he would not support the contentions of the author of the main article is merely to express a lack of knowledge and understanding of his work.

  15. It is not just psychologists and psychiatrists who see signs of some deep disturbance in anyone who dares to be less than completely obedient. Most people have to find other ways than medication or institutionalization to punish it.

    Very interesting post. Thanks!

  16. This brought to mind two things:

    (1) When the mothers of the disappeared started to protest in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires under the former junta, the government referred to them as the “madwomen of the plaza”. They simply wanted to know what had happened to their children and grandchildren (thousands of whom were ‘disappeared’ by the regime) and refused to believe the bull shit they were served by the military, the police, the church and the government.

    (2) Lisbeth Salander.

  17. Most Americans who have children whom are on these drugs to include my own child, could not sit through a one hour class let alone study in the same classroom for eight hours a day five days a week. I would love to be able to read your words and be in full compliance with their meaning. However, there are other extraneous factors which can and do contribute to the ADHD in most children. I am sure that there is a more blaten correlation among all of these children rather than just that they are anti-authoritarian in nature. To me this post seems to comply with the commonly explained reason for why these children have ADHD; “they are born that way…” As you are an earned Ph.D., I would expect to see at least you might have had a bit more to say about the chemistry of each child, even down to the baby food they ate. I am sorry sir, but you are just as compliant as all of the others, and it does not take a Ph.D. for me to figure that one out.

    • He is not saying “All kids who have ADHD because they are anti-authoritarian.” He is saying that many kids are misdiagnosed with a mental disorder because they are anti-authoritarian. No one here is denying that ADHD or ODD are legitimate mental disorders. Only that they are being over-diagnosed because of social ills.

      As a teacher, I agree with this article. I teach students who are considered the “remedial” class. Many of them are intelligent, hard workers who don’t need to be in the lower levels but are placed there because they are difficult to control or refuse to do work. They don’t have a disorder – school just sucks!

      • I’m a former teacher. The diagnoses of ADHD and ADD have no scientific basis, just like all the rest of the diagnoses in the DSM. They were created to make a profit for psychiatry and the large drug companies.

        Too much of education in America these days is nothing but a huge and boring waste of time. It’s no wonder that kids can’t sit still in their seats. When I was boring my students got antsy. When I was doing my job and working with them on how to think critically for themselves they were just fine. This is all a bunch of horse manure, plain and simple. Teachers don’t want to take responsibility for being boring as hell.

        • I grew up in the 1960s and I don’t remember any ADD kids. This was nonexistent. No one had “attention problems.” If you weren’t paying attention in class, it meant the teacher was boring or it meant you needed an eye exam so you could see the blackboard, which was black and hard to see anyway. We wrote love notes, too. So we paid attention to those and wrote well. We thought that JRR Tolkein was far more interesting than Dick and Jane. Medication? Naw. They could have banned The Hobbit and maybe that would have affected the Ritalin craze. Julie

          • I also grew up in the 50′s-60′s and never once ever met a student in any of my classes that was ADD or ADHD! I also taught high school for fifteen years and never had a student that would qualify for these stupid labels.

            Then, all of a sudden we have this absolute explosion of students who supposedly have ADD and ADHD! It’s just ludicrous and you would think that the American public would wake up and smell the coffee here but like willing sheep they buy into the labels and supposed “illnesses” created by the drug companies and supported by psychiatry!

            The DSM 5 if full of really stupid “diagnoses” which were pulled out of someone’s hat at their planning meetings. If you’re defient as a teenager then you’re ill; if you mourn for a dead loved one for more than two weeks you’re ill; if you’re a child and throw a tantrum you’re ill. They’ve pathologized everything that’s normal in human living and it’s all done for the purposes of controlling people for psychiatry and making money for the drug companies. But, once again the American public goes right on accepting everything as if it’s gospel truth. Where will it end?

    • Excellent point. I find Levine’s post incredibly, even laughably conformist. It’s the same old ideas, based on the same old perceptual biases. Heavy on the personal ideology, light on the facts.

  18. A guy called Jef Schmidt wrote an excellent book called Disciplined Minds that examines in detail the processes that turn most professionals into tools of authority. I particularly thought of this when this article talked about the anxiety psychologists and psychiatrists feel when confronted by anti-authoritarian patients.

    One rule that can be taken from all this I think is that the best therapists are going to be those with the worst qualifications. I’ve been aquainted with a couple of counsellors with mere ‘certificates’ (as opposed to degrees) who were excellent at their job AND understood and empathetised with patients who were suffering from abusive authority figures in their lives. They’ve helped me unravel the wrong lessons I picked up from my time at university but the book Disciplined Minds has also played a key part in that.

  19. Kids who are angry, defiant and uninvolved with ‘authority’ always have good reason to be so. Neglectful, abusive, chaotic families do not create secure attachment which would lead to a desire to be in relationship with those who have more power, knowledge etc, and instead foster resentment, envy and high levels of anxiety.

    If your amygdala screams at the perception of a powerful others, and there is no rewarding dopaminergic connection with such figures, what can we expect?

    Instead of diagnosing, medicating and trying to control these persons, how about understanding and joining their really painful reality? Just giving words really helps.

    In Lacanian terms, trauma that can not be talked about, will be expressed in some kind of action that involves the body, and not the conscious mind.

    Easy to hand out chemicals, listening and really educating, harder and priceless.

    • It’s also extremely easy to assume they are victims of some trauma and talk them to death when a thorough physical examination and the correct medical treatment can help them feel better. It took me years to find a good psychiatrist who helped me find medications that helped me face my life. Meanwhile, I had psychotherapists convinced I must have had something awful in my background that was causing my problem. They did not help me at all.

      I was finally diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and sleep apnea which helped since I was able to get treatment for both.

      My son died in 2004, which was an extremely traumatic condition. Based on my years of understanding myself and my disorder, I could tell that the feelings that I had about his death, which were very painful, were of a different quality than those of my depressive phase.

      All the medical treatment in the world could not have helped my grief,but all the grief therapy in the world could not help the bipolar disorder. They are two different animals.

    • Oh boy, more “attachment” bias.

      This line of thinking really needs the type of expansion that studying a little science could bring. You might think you are being compassionate to these children, but you are being the exact opposite: Your preconceived notions about what does and doesn’t cause angry, defiant behavior can hurt them deeply.

      • Gina, attachment bias? *shaking head no*

        I believe Jan was speaking specifically about people of violent & turbulent childhoods, and how we (some of us) suffered additional injuries, by a hap-hazard “treatment” industry.

        A person most certainly will *NOT* engage (attach) to a source of potential harm.

    • True, a very intelligent and heart warming contribution. I, for one – feel VALIDATED.

      And now the splishy-splashy waters inside remind me that I am still alive (meaning, I could just burst with tears – and cry).

      Thank You, Jan.

  20. Bruce,

    Thank you for writing such an insightful article which peers into the minds of Authority, especially mental health professionals.

    While there are many with Authority in various fields who have genuine compassion and understanding for others, there are many who worship power and control.

    While I feel sympathy for the pain and suffering endured by professionals during their growth from neophyte to professional, it does not excuse the savage and brutal behavior practiced in the name of “mental health” , “for the good of society”, “the proper social order”.

    After all, both the Nazis and the Soviets believed they were doing the right thing as millions of innocent lives were butchered.

    So much evil has been perpetuated in the name of “good intentions”.

    “Good intentions” do not make something right.

  21. You just described my wondrous second school, and explained, succinctly, without nonsense, where a decade of my adult life was lost. Thank you, Bruce Levine, you’re my absolute hero. – j

  22. As a practicing LPC I’m not sure I agree with the full article, but there are definitely kernels that deserve some added thought. I try very hard not to dx ODD unless I’m sure that it is ODD. I too questioned authority in my youth and spent time in the Principals Office as a result. I was a “normal rambunctious boy” then, would I be labeled ODD now?

  23. There are a few things I can’t say are so due to my lack of knowledge in certain areas, but the general premise and case you make I agree with. I agree that the role of education in this country is more about compliance and being made into a repeater of information than it is about truth.

  24. I totally agree with this article.One of the things not mentioned is the terrible effects of the labeling on the child’s future. There are also parents that school their children in symptoms of ADHD so that the children receive financial benefits like SSI and the parents live off the money, that really needs to stop.

    • I’d really like to know which cockamamie website perpetrates this myth. Is it a Tea Party website? Because it usually has racist undertones.

      You want to talk “labels,” lady? How about lazy, stupid, and crazy? Are those better than “ADHD”? Because those (and worse) are the labels heaped on people with unrecognized ADHD from a young age.

      Treatment for ADHD improves outcomes in all domains of life, including education, employment, relationships, finances, and health.

    • I think you misunderstand the concept of anti-authoritarian. Gandhi you may have a point with, though it’s a contentious one, but Mandela most certainly was an authoritarian; he led and vigorously controlled a major rebellion for over 30 years. Mother Theresa was an even more extreme case of authoritarianism; she believed she had a direct line to the Absolute Authority, and therefore that any actions she took in accordance with that were right, regardless of any less authority interfering.

      If you’re looking for anti-authoritarians, you need to look at people like Robert Anton Wilson.

    • Yeah, Mother Teresa, who urged obedience to the Poop, who wanted birth control and abortion banned, and who let suffering people die without medication, was “anti-authoritarian.” On what planet is this, Batshit Catho-holic?

  25. Wow, thank you Dr. Levine. I have been diagnosed with bi-polar at 18, paranoid schizophrenic at 24, and schizoeffective with bipolar tendencies last year at 34, and have been in meds most of my adult life. As a child, my mother would slap me down constantly for things I said. Your article is enlightening and in looking at my life, esepecially since losig my career job last year under authority, I consider myself to be anti-authoritarian. There’s a fine line between trust of authority, and in doing what is right. Thanks, again. I will resend to various people.

  26. TOP PSYCHIATRISTS SAY “OCCUPY WALL STREET” PROTESTERS MENTALLY ILL

    November 5, 2011 (Special to the New York Times)

    Two of the nation’s most prominent psychiatrists said today that the “Occupy Wall Street” protests have taken place because the demonstrators have a form of mental illness first seen in uncooperative toddlers.

    Dr E. Fullovit Torrey, of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Washington, said the demonstrators were suffering from the newly-discovered adult form of oppositional defiant disorder. Until now, this illness has been seen only in children. Typically, a two-year-old with the disease shows symptoms like refusing to go to bed when asked, and having a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. The illness is usually treated with powerful anti-psychotic drugs.

    Dr. Torrey is a well-known advocate for the right of the mentally ill to receive psychiatric treatment, even when they object. Such “assisted treatment” should be applied to the Wall Street protestors, he said.

    According to Dr. Torrey, “This is what happens when millions of the untreated mentally ill are allowed to walk the streets. In city after city, the psychotic behavior of these unfortunate people now threatens our American way of life. These poor people are blinded by their sickness, and are rebelling against the foundations of civilized society, such as the universally recognized principle that the better class of people should run things.”

    Concurring with Dr Torrey, Dr. Joseph Mengele, chief of research for GlaxoPfizerNovartisLilly, the world’s largest pharmaceutical maker, said that his company has developed a new medication to calm the protestors. Its mode of administration is precisely tailored to deal with the problem of mentally ill demonstrators who cannot be reached by the usual means. Pacify (TM), or sodium beelzebub, can be given by shooting darts into the protestors, similar to those used to tranquilize large wild animals.

    Dr. Mengele, who is also President-Elect of the American Psychiatric Association, said that police could easily be trained to apply the medication to protestors. Instead of tear gas and flash-bang grenades, which the general public tends to look upon unfavorably, one shot with a dart gun can immobilize protestors in a more acceptable way.. Thus, the streets can be cleaned up quickly and with minimal public relations problems.

    Dr. Mengele said the new drug has been tested on mental patients in Guatemala, Burkina Faso, and Mississippi, and found to be safe and effective. The fatality rate in the two-week trials was minimal, only about twenty per cent. And it is believed that in about six to nine months after receiving the medication, some patients will recover to the point where they may even be able to be employed in undemanding jobs, such as cleaning toilets.

    The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Pacify (TM) within the next few weeks, as soon as FDA officials receive adequate payments from GlaxoPfizerNovartisLilly.

    Each dose of the new drug will cost the U.S. government about $2500. But Dr Mengele and Dr. Torrey point out that the medication is very cost-effective, since untreated demonstrators might ultimately cost the government, and the corporations that own it, far more than the total price of the drug. Dr. Mengele said, “It is a very small price to pay for maintaining our American way of life.”

  27. I think your analysis could offer many people some insight in how to channel their anti-authoritarian tendencies in healthy ways. But one note: a defining characteristic of ADHD is that the child cannot concentrate EVEN IF the activity interests him/her.

    • Well, I disagree with you on two points. It is not just “precocious” children who try beyond their means. I am a speech language pathologist and the special needs children I work with often do the same exact thing. In fact, they can seem even more “anti-authoritarian” because they cannot express their frustration in conventional ways which is even more frustrating. The secret is to get them working in what psychologist Lev Vygostky calls the Zone of Proximal Development. This is the point at which they can succeed with some help.

      The second point I disagree with is that children should never be given medication. I don’t think medication should be the first line of treatment because there are therapeutic avenues that should be tried first, but I have seen a few children who truly needed it.

      The dirty secret that is being hidden in the blog post is that 99.9% of these children will never be an Einstein or a Steve Jobs. Whether or not they take medication, they will still need to work very hard and need a lot of support from their parents, educators and therapists. Even if they are schooled in the most appropriate environment, they will need to accept enough authority to learn.

      • Medication is for physical disease. There is no physical disease in the children, so you are advocating the use of drugs.
        The children have an imaginary disease and authority is applying a physical solution.
        Instead of an overt physical beating of the children to accept authority ( like they did in the past), they name mind altering drugs as medications.
        “Medication” is a lie. The only real problem is the long term effects of the drugs on the physical body.

        No one will take responsibility for the damage though. Everyone will say “I was just following orders”

  28. I think too many aspects of human experiences & conditions have been turned into pathology. At the same time, we have made many strides in mental health, some people really do require treatment & find freedom in that. The problem with medicalizing human behavior is the pharmaceutical giants that have arisen. With such big money involved, the research cannot be fully trusted. There is far too much monetary incentive to convince ppl they are sick. I for one, am glad I have always questioned my surroundings, did not succeed in mainstream schools, because I can think for myself. These days, that’s a rarity.

    • “because I can think for myself. These days, that’s a rarity.”

      How very true! Just watching the political scene this decade has taught me how gullible most people are. They will take a political position based solely on what they heard from someone else. If you ask them; How do you know such and such is true?, they are at a loss. They believe it because some “authority” claimed it was true, or they simply heard it from their Pastor etc. Folks are being fed a ton of hogwash every day and they are buying into it which is what is intended. Look up “FUD Factor” because that is what “THEY” want!

  29. My grandson has ADHD,so did my brother and I. First I believe that the ability to concentrate on a given topic comes from setting an ambiance with complete silence. Therefore anyone with ADHD could possibly concentrate thoroughly. Most ADHD persons have a lot of topics that they think about simultaneously which is also considered somewhat a task for a person with a intellectual quotient of less than 100. This is normality. Most of these ADHD people are good at more than one creative task. And all of the children with ADHD are insecure, do not sleep well, and have difficulties socializing. Many of our countries decision makers were diagnosed with similar mental illness’s, President Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill’s black dog, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then there is create persons like Virginia Wolfe, Earnest Hemmingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Theodore Roethke, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Issac Newton, & Einstein. People of today with the disease very seldom want the public to know about it but Patty Duke Ashton, Natalie Cole, Harrison Ford. A few celebrities have come forward to help fight all the mental diseases that are entwined with one another. Raving, tourret and Bi-Polar this is just the beginning of understanding children who go through adolescense to adulthood with no coping mechanisms but a huge amount of talents that could be focused or managed by someone trusting in their behalve. Channel ADHD & all the other 4 seasons & you will have a cure. It is great that you have labeled this ADHD at all. I sincerely do not believe that mental illness has a right to own a person with this problem. It is merely a category that stands out with assertive, aggressive, or cognitive thinking. I believe everyone is or has an imperfection of character, “a defect” and probably will not know it until they are an adult and it starts to become a problem in their ability to be employed or be an employer. Labels are very humiliating.

  30. i’m absolutely anti-authoritarian, and i was with you until the bit about how ADD is just caused by boring jobs. i don’t consider spending time with family and friends to be boring, but until i started medication for my ADD, i couldn’t even really have a conversation with them. i’d always end up confused, dropping out of the discussion until i could pick up the thread and say something again.

    • I think writers like Levine have a lot of interesting things to say, but other things they have to say should be taken with a boulder of salt. Even truer of the anti-psychiatric types who show up in the comments. My life would suck a lot harder and possibly not even exist anymore without medication.

      • Oh, but you two have fallen for the authoritarian model of compliance, haven’t you? You have been brainwashed into thinking that these medications have helped you!

        Just kidding!!

        I’ve met hundreds of late-diagnosis adults with ADHD who were bullied in treatment rooms nationwide by imperious psychologists with not a clue of neuroscience — and in fact, an “ODD-like” bias against it.

        The trouble is psychologists who cannot adapt to the times, to take in new information. It’s not as though late-diagnosis adults with ADHD can’t use psychological support with, for example, adjusting to the diagnosis, reframing one’s life through the ADHD lens, and using an evidence-based model of CBT for ADHD to jettison counter productive coping skills and negative self-talk. We desperately need more of these psychologists. What we don’t need is more claptrap that keeps adults with ADHD stuck and blaming the “conformist” world for their troubles.

      • It’s fine if you want to take the drugs, and have been given true informed consent. The problem is that thousands of people are forced to take the toxic drugs against their will and without their choice. You go right ahead and take your drugs and think what you want, but don’t you dare try to speak for all the rest of us who don’t want anything to do with them. They may work fine for you but haven’t for hundreds of thousands of others.

  31. Dear Dr. Levine,
    Are you a scientologist? This is a serious question. I got the feeling that you are a scientologist. And if you are, would you tell the truth and own up to your scientology? I’m curious to see if this comment will be posted or not and if you’ll reply or not.
    Thanks,
    Anonyous

  32. people who are “anti-authority” don’t do well ALSO because theywon’t give the authority figue the “benefit of the doubt” you can’t just reject everthing and everyone because they haven’t “PROVEN THEMSELVES TO YOU AND OR SOMEONE YOU TRUST.”

  33. As someone with bipolar disorder, ADD, and who is a speech-language pathologist, I find your sweeping generalizations disturbing. I am no lover of authority myself; I have worked hard to find a psychiatrist I could respect and will take my concerns seriously.

    I have also worked with many different kinds of children from ages 2-21 individually and in small groups. I have seen many children who got bored. I have also seen a few children who were miserable because they could not pay attention to something for more than 30 seconds. When they took medication, they were able to focus and learning about everything became so much easier for them. They felt organized.

    I have also worked with children and adults with brain damage. They have exhibited some of the same attention problems. I don’t think that epilepsy or strokes cause these individuals to suddenly become “anti-authoritarian” personalities!

    Now, I do not and should not diagnose ADD; also, I think using non-medical treatments before medical treatments is ideal. However, if someone needs medication, it is cruel to make parents feel guilty for giving it to them while they are seeing their child suffer.

    Having had type II bipolar disorder for most of my life, I have a pretty good idea of what depression feels like. I also have a really good idea of what non-depressive extreme sadness feels like; my oldest son died in 2004. I can tell you that all the pills in the world would not have healed that grief. It was and is profoundly different than depression.

    There is a mistaken belief that those of us with MDD or BPD take the pills to “cure” depression. No! We take them so we can learn to live with the symptoms. It was a starting place for me where I could climb out of it enough to learn coping techniques and face my life, not escape my life.

    As a speech language pathologist, I understand that I usually cannot offer my patients a cure for their speech or language disorders. I can teach them techniques to cope with it and improve their lives.

    Similarly, I accept that my pills are not a cure. But you can only have them when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

    • Ann; Why do we expect kids to have a long attention span? Aren’t they supposed to explore and learn? Rather we are all forced to spend 12 years of our lives in an “institution” being force fed information we could learn on our own at our own pace. The educational system as designed, forces you to learn a before b before c before d etc. It is no wonder many are so frustrated. Why not become expert on “d” then go back and learn “c, b and a”? It is no wonder we as a country have lost so much in the way of innovation.

      • Children develop attention spans like they do everything else. Also, just like everything else, they develop on a continuum. In other words, some children develop it more quickly than others.

        In my speech/language pathology practice, I see lots of different types of children. I have different expectations of them based on their age and my understanding of their personal development. I see children one-on one, by the way. I don’t expect, for example, a kindergartener to have an attention span longer than a few minutes for any particular task, and I expect to keep changing things around. Also, if I see oppositional behavior, I have usually observed that it is because there is something frustrating going on that we can usually solve.

        I have worked with children with ADHD, and they are different from regular, lively children. They are frantic; their minds are confused, and if they can speak, their conversation is hard to follow. Even when we are sitting on the floor playing an with something they enjoy, they find it hard to concentrate. They do not enjoy this state of mind.

        These are not cases of Nurse Rachet handing them pills and chaining them to desk chairs. These are parents and medical providers doing what they can to help children achieve a good, happy life.

        • I never ran across any of the kids you’re describing here while I was a student from kindergarden to post graduate work in college. Neither did I ever run into any of them during my fifteen years of teaching high school classes.

          Why is it that this supposed “illness” that you’re talking about suddenly appeared only in the 80′s? And Allen Frances, the man in charge of the DSM 4 I think it is, made a public apology for what he calls “creating and epidemic” by pushing the ADHD label as vigorously as he did.

          Why is it so important for you to believe in this so strongly? And, those of us who protest against all of this are not antipsychiatry.

  34. Society, whether it be capitalist or socialist, operates under the expectation of certain narrowly defined human behaviors. If you do not operate within that expectation by holding a well paying job, wearing the right clothes etc, you will perish. To folks who can’t or don’t keep up, life is punishing. To many folks, who do keep up barely, it is fatiguing. What we are seeing in the US today, is a collapse of the economic and political system due to the removal of the facade that these systems are just and fair. They are not, and people have now begun to notice they have been duped all along.

  35. This is brilliant and I have been trying to articulate this very point to my therapist for over a year now. Thank you for putting it so succinctly.

    I believe there is a term that encompasses this entire phenomena. It’s gas-lighting or, more technically, psychological harassment. If someone isn’t mentally ill when this process starts they sure will after a year or two of this treatment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

    http://www.psychologicalharassment.com/coercive_mind_control_tactics.htm

    http://www.psychologicalharassment.com/psychological_manipulation.htm

    This was done to me covertly by a Catholic Children’s Aid Society over a period of two years until I was hospitalized with all of the symptoms spelled out as the predicted outcome of this treatment. And, the first thing they do is destroy your credibility so no one believes a word you say.

      • Yes, it is true and the Catholic Church practically invented this tactic during the inquisition.

        There are however, clauses in the Geneva convention that describe this has a crime akin to genocide. However, when this is done covertly event he victim isn’t aware of what is happening. I didn’t discover this tactic until will over a year after I had been hospitalized for this ‘assault.’ While in hospital, all I could say was, ‘they’re lying’, over and over again.

        Diagnosis: paranoid and delusional.

        Bloody maddening!

  36. Thank you so much for this diagnosis, you certainly described me. From an early age people tried to label me with various dysorders, none of which I was ever treated for.

    In my later life I reflect not so much on what I have accomplished but on how little friends of a similar age have accomplished.

    I am not a criminal, I believe in the rule of law and abide by society’s rules, but I’m constantly striving for improvement, I do this by complaining. My opinion on any matter can change as I aquire new information about the subject, I don’t feel locked-in or pressured to accept any ideology. I don’t believe everything I read or see in the Media.

    I’ve had the view for years that people who “keep up with the Jones’s” and are very cognisant of their position in society and filter everything through the barrier of “what would the neighbors’s think?” are slaves to themselves but they don’t even realize they are slaves. The are employees rather than employers, they are patrons rather than performers and they are observers in life rather than participants.

    George Orwells “1984″ would serve most people well as a blueprint for society. Social Workers are a particularly fine example of the “Authorities” described here and by by Orwell.

    I’ve also wondered for years about Social Workers, surely they must suffering from some dysorder? I’ve never been personaly harmed by one, but never met one I liked. Fortunately you’ve captured it here, they are suffering from Pro-Authoritarian Dysorder (some with God Complex comorbidity). Thanks for this piece, I’ve never felt more sane in my life.

  37. As David Bowie sang: “And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds, they are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through”

  38. What about the relationship of anti-authoritarianism to narcissistic personality disorder? I am a pathological narcissist who has been extremely anti-authoritarian my entire life. I was really into conspiracy theories for years and only recently had some breakthroughs. As Lacan put it in the case of the man who was pathologically jealous that his wife was cheating on him, when in fact she was, “it makes no difference” — in other words, the jealousy is still pathological. If you are pathologically anti-authoritarian, it makes no difference whether the authorities you rebel against are right or wrong. It’s still pathological. To make matters more confusing, there are quite a few psychoanalysts out there who don’t even believe in NPD, and are thus free to do what they like under the guise of ‘good intentions.’ (You can always tell narcissists because of their defense mechanism which relies heavily on their intentions, or on reading meaning into their and others actions …. basically narcissism is a semiotic disorder).

  39. I see there is a comment about ‘Gaslighting.’ This is actually something narcissists do, and I don’t doubt that there are mental health care practitioners who suffer from narcissism. So, gaslighting is certainly an actual cause for concern.

    But the main problem is that the distinction anti-authoritarian vs authoritarian is not a good distinction to make, because an anti-authoritarian is also being authoritarian in their own way.

    The thing is, I was gaslighted my entire life, and I ended up as anti-authoritarian as you can get. I was gaslighted into thinking I was better than everyone else, somehow superior, that “most of society is screwed up,” “most people are idiots,” “mainstream society is wrong” etc etc … basically I was raised homeschooled, off the grid, not only anti-authority but anti-mainstream-society. So I became extremely conspiratorial and suffered all sorts of psychological neuroses (many of which I still suffer) such as mania, depression, paranoia, numerous addictions etc etc. Only recently have I been able to come out from under the conspiracy haze and basically feel like “whether or not the conspiracy is true, it is still pathological to spend hours a day obsessing over it….”

    I guess I’m just saying that I ended up being gaslighted my entire life by my family and it resulted in a situation where I would defend my good intentions to the bitter end, I would martyr myself and be the most self-deprecating narcissist you ever met, I would decry my empathy for the world, my love and self-sacrifice, my best intentions blah blah blah …. at the end of the day, I had an addiction to Narcissistic Supply (still do, always will!) and nothing could fill that hole. All my anti-authoritarianism was a way of sustaining the narcissistic delusion. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my anti-authoritarian bent were closely related to the fact that my mother was an engulfing hypervigilant narcissist (I was like an extension of her) and I suffered from psychic/emotional/covert incest most of my life, while my mom pushed my dad away (they were never married) …. the lack of a strong father figure in my life, and my mom’s extreme anti-authoritarianism, combined with her incestuous engulfment of me and isolating me away from friends, homeschooled etc ….. I ended up about as anti-authoritarian, narcissistic and fucked up as you can imagine!! ;)

  40. For those interested in another take on authoritarians, I suggest that you read Robert “Bob” Altemeyer’s book THE AUTHORITARIANS, information for which may be found at http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ or just search the author’s name. At the mentioned website, you will find a free online version of this book.

    What Altemeyer has to say about authoritarianism and right-wing political leadership and its followers is something that all of us ought to be aware of. But, his research has much wider meaning for things than just politics.

    Having looked through the above comments, which have stayed close to the topic of the article, I find that they are, in most cases, unaware that anti-authoritarians mostly are made up of so-called normal people. Since the age of three, I have been aware that I am what is now termed “anti-authoritarian,” except that I want rules that are known and followed by all and especially by the authoritarians, who in my experience see themselves above the rules.

  41. And let us not forget the ladies. Meaning that women have historically been labeled as mentally ill whenever trying to fight for social change, being dissatisfied with traditional societal roles, or for simply expressing an opinion that disagrees with the majority patriarchal system. We’re seeing this now with Limbaugh calling Ms. Fluke all sorts of names from slut to whore to wanting to see videos of her having sex. All because she felt that contraceptives should be covered by insurance and that it was wrong for her to be excluded from speaking to our elected officials while an all male panel was was allowed.

  42. I found an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

    “the “oblivious” subtype as being grandiose, arrogant, and thick-skinned and the “hypervigilant” subtype as being easily hurt, oversensitive, and ashamed. In his view, the oblivious subtype presents for admiration, envy, and appreciation a powerful, grandiose self that is the antithesis of a weak internalized self, which hides in shame, while the hypervigilant subtype neutralizes devaluation by seeing others as unjust abusers.”

    I think that when most people hear ‘narcissist’ they think of the oblivious type. That is the authoritarian narcissist.

    But check out the other one– the hypervigilant narcissist is the anti-authoritarian type.

    Also we should distinguish between pathological anti-authoritarians who rebel against any authority, and contrast that with perhaps healthy attitude of disdain against authorities we disagree with (e.g. political administrations and so on).

    When I make the link between anti-authoritarianism and hypervigilant narcissism, I only mean pathological anti-authoritarians.

    Like the Lacanian anecdote I mentioned in a previous comment about the husband who is pathologically jealous his wife is cheating on him, only to find out it’s true– but that makes no difference. It’s like me being super into conspiracy theories for years and years. I was a hypervigilant narcissist and basically obsessed with conspiracy theory (I still suffer from a wide range of neuroses but have mostly overcome that one, although I fall back into it again and again and again….). My obsession with conspiracy theories is about as anti-authoritarian as it gets. I thought _all_ authorities were spiritually/psychically trying to keep humanity in chains, so to speak. I thought that the very spirit of authority itself was the R-complex reptilian unevolved mindstate and so on… once we evolve we can go beyond authority, etc.

    Now after having read extensively about karma, the Saturn archetype and other such things, I believe authority is a natural part of the full spectrum of human experience. I take a more Jungian/Richard Tarnas/archetypal cosmology perspective now on the whole situation. But for about 10 years I would read thousands of conspiracy webpages, hundreds of books, listen to all the podcasts, amass obsessive amounts of anti-authoritarian information …

  43. Sorry to keep posting, but I had one final thought: For years and years I would get into really angry arguments about two political/cultural groups. Basically I saw one group as the authority and the other group as victims, and I would get into political shouting matches with anyone who cared to debate. Now I still feel solidarity with who I see as the victims– its impossible for me to overcome my anti-authoritarian bent. I am still anti-authoritarian in the sense that I still feel solidarity with the underdog, I still want them to “win” somehow …. but after years and years of debating about places I’ve never been to, and people who I don’t even know, etc etc, I have realized that all these political debates are the perfect arena for narcissists to collect Narcissistic Supply (well, that and internet comments/message boards).

    I guess I just wanted to say that it was only last year (I’m 28) that I finally stopped arguing about things where I knew I was right, and I knew the other person was wrong (“all-or-nothing” narcissistic splitting), where I could keep myself from flying into a narcissistic rage and actually shouting at people who I perceived as supporting the authoritarian group (I believe I even compared them to nazis) … I mean, it was very recently in my life that I’ve been able to realize a lot of this narcissism stuff, and I just wanted to share that I do think it is intimately tied with anti-authoritarianism. There is no causality per se, they just have an affinity. At least between the hypervigilant narcissist subgroup and the anti-authoritarians. (Because I would oftentimes get in shouting matches with other “authoritarian” oblivious narcissists — in fact I surrounded myself with hypervigilants who all equally hated the oblivious ones … I’m a “whiny liberal” anti-authoritarian thin-skinned Seattleite in case you couldn’t guess! and our favorite pasttime is badmouthing conservative authoritarian thick-skinned middle-americans to try to get narcissistic supply, but I digress.)

    • I hope that one day you will untangle your thoughts from the myriad knots in which psychoanalytic theory has tied them. You see yourself as the victim of “emotional incest,” among other things, without realizing it is a mental construct born in the mind of a haughty psychoanalyst, not an irrefutable fact of life like the laws of physics. Freudian psychobabble has not explained your problems, and it certainly hasn’t resolved them. Instead it has become a ring in your nose by which you are now leading yourself into further confusion and mental pain.

  44. I agree with the infamous “anti-psychiatrist” Thomas Szasz in stating that a)mental is socially constructed, and changes from one culture to the next (for example, Japanese culture may find the type A, assertive, go-getter, entrepreneurial type personality that Americans tend to value as being socially disruptive) and b) people should only be treated for “mental illness” if they actually desire that treatment, or if they really are a danger to themselves or others, not simply because what they do is seen as disruptive. I do agree that the author of this article over extends the “anti-authoritarian” interpretation (as a previous post commented, not all children with these “disorders” are consciously aware of their stance against authority). We should also ask ourselves why being “mindlessly obedient” isn’t considered a disorder? We’re the pilots that dropped bombs on Hiroshima “sane”? We’re the participants in the Milgram experiment sane? Or the nazis? All were simply doing what the authorities told them to do. It is often important and beneficial (sometimes even to ones very survival) to integrate into the surrounding culture/society, but not when the ethos of that society is fundamentally flawed and destructive–not when the institutions and political leaders of that society are corrupt and self-serving–not when the blind are leading the blind.

  45. @p yablonsky: Rush Limbaugh is an oblivious narcissist. Thick-skinned, arrogant, self-assured, vain, all-or-nothing thinking, narcissistic rage, revenge fantasy, selfishness, lack of empathy etc etc …. But Rush Limbaugh being an oblivious narcissist does not justify ourselves being hypervigilant narcissists. I’m not saying you are one, because I don’t know you. But I know that I _could_ find a way to pathologically enjoy complaining about Rush Limbaugh to gain Narcissistic Supply. That’s just me. I am not making any assumptions about anyone else.

    One aside though is my dad who is a hypervigilant narcissist (but at least he has an outlet– painting, which is a very healthy way for narcissists to get Narcissistic Supply without annoying people or inflicting emotional abuse), anyway, my dad just _loves_ to complain about Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, this Santorum person … I don’t even follow politics but whenever he starts to relax it’s just “look out, complaining about how idiotic politicians are” time … which to me is just a hypervigilant (self-victimizing, thin-skinned) strategy of narcissism.

    It makes sense in terms of my family because my grandfather on my dad’s side is a wealthy, elite, thick-skinned, arrogant conservative pathological oblivious narcissist … and my dad wanted to rebel against him, so he went the hypervigilant route! ;)

  46. I was diagnosed as bipolar II because of a reaction to an antidepressant. The worst years of my life were brought to me by lithium. I accepted the diagnosis and the medication because I didn’t think I would survive another depression like the first one that I had at the age of 34. Imagine my feelings of shock and betrayal at all the quackery when I had the depression again, tried all kinds of antidepressants, neuroleptics, and antipsychotics that didn’t work; then found out that my clinical “retarded or atypical depression” was, in fact, pernicious anemia and was cleared up in two weeks with very high doses of iron supplements.

    Had I made the mistake of seeing a psychiatrist about my fatigue and allowed it to be called “depresssion” and treated with polypharmacology; I would have had to share the blame when it became clear that the fatigue was a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, because I KNEW it was physical and that my mind was a little foggy, but otherwise fine.

    • ‘Education’ is controlled by the establishment and the establishment consists of the likes of big pharma, the FDA, medical and social sciences that commit atrocities against living, sentient beings in the name of ‘research’, and all manner of atrocities. They drive the diagnostics and they know NOTHING about health. Things as simple as essential fatty acids and wholesome (not processed) natural diet have cured the phony disease of ADHD. Your story is but one of far too many. Pharma has replaced nature and is destroying human health. I’m so sorry that you suffered because of brainwashed adherents of a toxic and ineffective paradigm. You may find this of interest:

      http://www.orthomolecular.org/history/hoffer/index.shtml

  47. Bruce, thank you so very much.

    I was refused the examination papers which would have given me the ticket to move to the next level of schooling. I was told that it would be a waste of their time as I am too stupid.
    I was 15 and left school. At 20 I was deeply depressed and suicidal.
    At 22, I ran away from my family and my life and moved to another country, this turned everything around for me. I became un-depressed, I stopped wetting my bed, I stopped chewing my nails, I grew 3 inches. I became a man.

    At 39 I finally moved away from continuously being a square peg in around hole in various corporations. I wasted many years there.
    I started my own unique business and the money I made enabled me to retire early.
    I came out of retirement and have started a vegan farm from scratch.
    I am selling my produce with much success. I have a sense of knowing that the project will be hugely successful.

    Today I am enjoying my life but mostly I am enjoying who I am.
    I realised (sic) many years ago that I am ferociously anti-authoritarian but before becoming conscious of this it caused me much grief.

    I am so happy that I never went to university and made my own way in life. “university = knowledge – wisdom” Guillaumé 2007

    After reading your article (sourced from another web-site) I cried and cried with some joy.
    You have described me so accurately. I have been wondering about the relationship for many years and now you come along and couple the two subjects.
    If you have any more knowledge on this subject, please e-mail me.

    Guillaumé

  48. Just imagine the poor kids with this outlook on life who grow up under narcissistic or authoritarian parents, in addition to professionals, who further convince them that the problem lies with themselves….or that any poor treatment they incur as a result of “acting out” is ALWAYS rightfully deserved. You get adults who have been brainwashed to believe themselves disgusting and deficient… adults who were taught long ago that the only reason to achieve is to avoid punishment…eventually they decide for themselves that the punishment is something they will always deserve.

    These kinds of attitudes are nothing more than gaslighting for the masses….

  49. Sometimes what appears to be incompatible bahaviour is “a sane reponse to an insane situation”, as the Scottish “existentalist” psychiatrist R. D. Laing termed it. Thank you for your insights. I was very fortunate to be educated in a very short period in the sixties, where iconoclastic children like myself were viewed with interest, and encouraged to harnass our thought-processes into higher levels of critical thinking, and were profoundly democratic. I gather my public school educators were influenced by concepts and experimental schools such as Summerhill School founded in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland Neill. It has really helped me as a lawyer for 30 years, and to view those who are less comfortable with addressing difficult issues with compassion, as the process of coming to terms with the lack of interest in others to explore concepts and challenge the accepted “status quo” was sometimes very frustrating as a child. In fact, these brief forays into progressive education, obviously led by intrepid, brilliant and, frankly, brave, educators, gave me the self-confidence to educate my Son similarly (home-schooled from grades 7 – 9, which are often particularly hard for kids in general)and he is in Med school doing an extra degree on Medical Education reform. My path has been challenging, as so many lawyers are about as mule-like in their social conformity as one could imagine! But there have been great compensations, like being able to work empathetically with clients and often expedite their legal remedies – as well as supporting and achieving legal reform, while continuing to make a living in the face of those who may feel (or actually be) threatened by change. Supporting and validating those oppressed by the anxiety of the “herd” is something we must always keep in mind to do. And this article opens the crack again to avoid needlessly pathologizing those who operate sometimes even slightly from the statistical mean, if they are not of the level of “being a danger to themselves or others”, which is almost never the level of concern. The dubious response to such thinkers is often so heightened as to put to question the motivation and health of the party alleging dysfunction. With time, it often becomes evident that it is they who are the obstruction and the problem. And while the damage that less competant professionals can wreak is lamentable, in these latter years it is sometimes answerable at law, such as the harm done in institutional settings, like pychiatric or youth detainment facilities.

  50. Thank you for this article. It’s exactly what i’ve been suffering from day one of my life as a person with the slightest bit of a mind of my own. The biggest curse of my life has been a habit of thinking for myself. i expect authorities to earn the respect they expect to be given by default. i am not a fool, but i am not an obedient follower.

    Thank you.

    -jace
    survivor of “the mental health system”

  51. Great article and very true from my experience. Throughout my life I’ve seen many psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. Most of them were not helpful and prescribed a slew of drugs that rendered me a zombie for years. Finally I found a doctor that slowly weaned me off and told me, “its not you, it’s them.” Slowly he helped me work through my main problem of being labeled early as “poison” from another doctor after I’d criticized his treatment plan repeatedly. It’s healthy to question authority because ultimately it’s your own life you are looking out for.
    In school, most people have their strong and weak subjects. Unfortunately in most schools, the students are allowed only to progress as far as their weakest subject. I propose that students be able to progress faster in their strong subject(s) even if it means taking a remedial class. This would eliminate a lot of boredom (and the disruption of class that goes along with it), give students a sense of purpose and pride and relieve some of the stress they have from being held to the lowest standard. This generation needs more educated free thinkers but instead many highly intelligent people are being labeled extremely early in their lives as defiant trouble makers with no attention span. Categorizing so many people as sick prevents them from achieving many goals which leads to so many people developing symptoms of mental illness. It’s a shame that to really get progress in life you must conform , kiss ass and blindly follow rules of an establishment that has become outdated and inefficient.

  52. I found the article very interesting and very informative. I don’t feel mentally ill anymore.

    The comments contained herein have been very enlightening as well and has led me to some further research as well as tacking the the PDF format of the book, “The Authoritarians”.

    All my life I’ve been labeled non-conformist. To an extreme it would seem. At least to me. But I’ve never tried to be different. I just go my own way and live my life the way it feels comfortable to me. That’s caused it’s own problems in that I seem to make people around me uncomfortable or they feel threatened. I’ve experienced that mindset of, “we must bring this person back into the fold of ‘normal’ conformity”.

    Watching this latest go-round of the GOP candidates has been like watching aliens. I cannot relate in any way to that mindset. The lies and the flat out stupid things they say I find mind boggling. But the biggest weirdness of all is that there are people that believe them! Thanks for explaining how that works. Why it works.

    And thanks for making me feel ‘normal’. ;-)

  53. This article provides a much need dose of reality, and my only criticism of it would be that it doesn’t go far enough.

    As Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at SUNY, has been arguing for 50 years, mental “illness” is a myth – merely an inappropriate medical metaphor for behaviour and states of mind considered by orthodox authoritarians to be socially undesirable. By classifying certain types of behaviours as medical conditions, subject to scientifically based “treatments”, professional psychiatrists, often acting as flunkies for the state, have gained coercive power over potential dissidents and individualists who threaten the status quo in which they flourish. At the same time, the classification of certain unacceptable social behaviours as “illnesses” provides a certain kind of social sanction for criminal and irresponsible behaviours, and by ameliorating the punishments, promotes both crime and sociopathology.

    The only legitimate criticism of Szasz’s radical view that I can see is that a few people manifestly have abnormal brain chemistries and benefit by the judicious adminstration of certain psychoactive drugs. However, all such drugs presently in use are blunt instruments that have major side effects, so drug “therapy” should undertaken with extreme caution and periodically re-evaluated. And in general, many convincing review studies have shown that most drugs administered for mental conditions benefit those who take them little more than than placebos, which have no side effects.

    What virtually all of us do need from time to time is someone sympathetic, or at least non-judgemental, to pour out our troubles to, but that person need not have an advanced degree. I have no doubt that many (but still a minority) of so-called mental health professionals are highly skilled at providing that kind of support and validation, and at providing beneficial life situation advicez (and some may even be worth the high fees they charge), but the same may be said of many talented and wise people without any professional psych credentials.

  54. Wow. First off who wants to be a robot But then agine who want to not fit in. It’s like when your young the only thing you can do to stand out is something bad because you don’t know what your good at yet, but as you age you find the things that you shine at and what kind of crowd you are wanting to appeal to.When I was in 6th grade they gave me meds for add/adhd. People would say to my parents what are you going to do with that kid. Now today they say what kind and gentle girl she grown to be. I may not have gone to college I have horrible greamer and can’t spell but I still made my parents proud just by finding what I’m good at and positive attention. But I still take the meds even in my late 20′s it does keep me focused and on task. I think it did give me some bad ocd, and when not taking it anger issues. Now I’m dealing with my child and fighting to not have him on meds but the bitting wont stop and I’m running out of daycares, it has slowed down. The task of kinder garden is this year. I think we’ll do just fine he is one bright child just mean.

  55. Why must pundits who don’t know the first thing about ADHD, much less its fairly common traveling companion of ODD, make such sweepingly ignorant statements about it? Who does this serve?

    Does your training as a psychologist not include the practice of becoming familiar with a diagnosis before railing against it publicly, creating more confusion among the public and more stigma for the people who have that particular diagnosis?

    Oh wait, your “anti-authoritarianism” must mean you don’t like to follow rules, including those guiding civil and informed discourse.

    Psychologists who fail to display intellectual and scholastic rigor and honesty, not to mention at least a passing familiarity with biology, must take responsibility for profession’s diminished credibility. It’s obvious that they care more about their own egos than patients’ welfare, no matter how much they protest otherwise.

    • I’ve read all of your posts in the comments, here. The tone is so overwhelmingly one of someone who needs control (and HAS to be right) that I finally clicked on your name to see if there was a profile. I read your site. How interesting that you felt the need to assure your readers that you aren’t a ‘pharma shill’. Gosh, why might THAT be? While it’s great that you and your husband have agreed that he is ADHD and he needs chemical management, you need to recognize your co-dependent role in his ‘disease’, and stop trying to shove your paradigm of choice (disease/pharma) down the throats of other people. You’re on a crusade when the rest of the world beginning to see just how destructive that very particular paradigm has been to so many people.

  56. I think this is an excellent article, but I find it interesting that the author chose to use a term which implies rebellion against authority to describe someone who “questions” authority. I know people who have learned to trust and respect uniforms, badges, ranks, or anything else they see as indications of intended authority. I also know people who have learned to hate, fear, or disrespect based on those same things. Personally, I don’t think EITHER is healthy, but I do understand how such prejudice can be a shortcut which may save someone the time and trouble of thinking things through before making a decision. A particular case comes to mind where I recently heard that someone was physically attacked by law officials after asking what they needed his name for. I was there to see him hauled off in the ambulance and when I heard what happened it had occurred to me that EITHER doing whatever they asked without questioning it OR simply avoiding them as a class of dangerous uniformed thugs, may well have saved him some injuries. However, I was told that he felt racially profiled and was afraid that hearing his name would have verified his race and made matters worse… so I can understand the hesitation. I recently was arrested in the Atlanta airport and mistreated rather severely over the fact that the words clearly visible on my clothing indicated that I was in support of the OCCUPY movement, which I stand behind because of the people in the movement who are working to make the world a better place. Experiences like that will not turn me against strangers in uniform… but they may strengthen my feelings of concern under certain circumstances.

  57. Interesting post! It’s put a whole new spin on an experience I had doing a PhD in physics at a rather miserable institution.

    I had extra skills from another field that my superiors didn’t have, and I was using them, and it has been suggested that this might have been threatening to my superiors. Certainly it lead to a lot of problems, including bullying and the withdrawal of work away from me.

    But I’ve never really had a great, rebellious streak — always studious, etc. Instead, I have difficulty tolerating irrationality, so I see that perhaps my striving to do things a smarter way kind of way put me in the position of a rebel. The problem was, given my background of child-abuse, I was not really able or interested in dealing with the political consequences of rebellion. Indeed, this is probably why I pursued an academic career, with it’s veneer of reason-before-politics (which I now know is mythological).

    When the whole situation exploded, that’s when the vocabulary of mental health entered. I was labelled as suffering “Learned Helplessness”, and was said to be “insufficiently assertive” — a strange claim which raises the question, What is one trying to protect by building the concept of an assertiveness middle-ground? “Assertive but not aggressive”, etc? What is wrong with holding people responsible for the behaviour that requires assertiveness of those around them? Does “Good”, as in “I’m a Good person”, really incorporate the idea that one can act in ways that will call upon the assertiveness of others around oneself? But here I am rebelling against failures of reason again.

    This kind of contemplation of “Good” that I’ve been forced to undertake relates to your notion of “existential death”. It’s different because it is not an issue of rebellion, but an issue of ethics, which is to say, notions of Right & Wrong arrived at through *reason*, as opposed through dictates — that is the realm of morality rather than ethics. For me, just accepting this history is an existential death. It’s a general problem with the (post)modern obsession with individual acceptance as a solution to social problems, which struggles to deal with the question of how the abused accepts the past without accepting that abuse is OK. One can strongly argue that this is why the concept of apology is so universal: it is an information/game theoretical strategy to recover a sense of a frame work of Right & Wrong, ie “The Rules”, modulo which one must form strategies for one’s future. The “Accept!” mantra, which burdens the individual with accommodation of injustice and unfairness, rather than perpetrators with atonement, or society with fairness — this mantra is surely a pressure toward the unethical behaviour that has become increasingly common over the last 30 years or so. That social change in the West is described sometimes as an increasing “psychopathy” or “sociopathy” (but there are good old words for this stuff, like “a&*sehole”), and it’s probably no coincidence that there are now social commentators asking us to reconsider pschoypathy on pragmatic grounds. So, my existential death is associated with the acceptance of the abusive, dishonest, Bad behaviour on the grounds of pragmatism, with its firewall against things like looting and civil unrest rooted in inconsistent morality and not self-consistent ethics. If I’m a rebel, my rebellion is against this new norm.

    2011 so the rise of movements like “Occupy”, which might be described as rebellion against such things, couched in a sense that the Western world has strayed too far from reasonable, ethical behaviour.

    At any rate, my claims of bullying were not simply a problem within me if one considers the others who had similar experiences to me: another student, also sent to counselling instead of dealing with the bully. There were also at least five other staff members that I know of who had serious issues with this bully, and his attitude caused such serious problems that it lead to things like the moving of his research group from one school to another, to get around the problems he created by making enemies. Notably, there was one staff member who was sufficiently prestigious for the university to act on her complaints, but when I sought to get the university to admit that they had had to deal with this bully in the past, they responded as a Kafkaesque organisation: “That’s a private matter which we can’t discuss”.

    My experience in the matter was a pretty clear cut case of the vocabulary of mental health being used to relocate clear, social problems within those who are suffering them.

  58. Yes, that’s the whole problem with the Occupy movement. And the Arab Spring. And the Russians, and the Iranians, and the Chinese who are demonstrating against corruption and voting fraud. See also the old hymn, I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted to This World, and the Generation Gap ballad, We’re Poisoning the Students’ Minds (Pete Seeger, 1971).

  59. There are a couple segments of society for whom this post seems particularly apropros. One is “disobedient women” — women who refused or were unable to conform to the proscribed gender roles of their time and whose rebellion, when and if it became inconvenient to husband or family, was treated as a psychiatric disorder.

    The second group is contemporary children in our school systems, where the definition of normalcy and the tolerance of atypicality has become dangerously narrow. As a MPH, I despair whenever I encounter a new client previously diagnosed with ODD — it’s a label which will render any act of self-assertion as groundless rebellion or refusal to conform. I don’t think children who receive this diagnosis ever leave it behind; every new teacher who sees the diagnosis will expect trouble and interpret the child’s statements and actions as incipient defiance.

    It’s particularly problematic with gifted kids, those with sufficient insight to see when the emperor (or teacher) is wearing no clothes. And I know, as a parent, that even in relatively enlightened educational environments, variation from the norm continues to be increasingly pathologized; more and more, teachers and administrators offer amateur diagnoses and referrals for mental health evalution at the slightest sign of deviation — because “early intervention” is so important (and it is, when a child has a definite disability).

    I recommend reading “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders,” written by interdiscliplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, including James T. Webb, Edward R. Amend, Nadia E. Webb, Jean Goerss, Paul Beljan, F. Richard Olenchak

  60. I think maybe we’re all missing the point here. The point is not that these disorders do not exist. The point is that, for many it is easier to medicate a child and push them to conform with societal norms than to adjust the system to deal with them at their own level.

    I believe that some cases are extreme enough to warrant medication and therapy. However, I also believe that most cases could be dealt with by trying to understand why the behavior exists in the first place.

    The author has a point. The social worker has a point. They are both highly trained professionals who are well versed in this field of diagnosis. Teachers in elementary schools, however, are not. In most cases, parents are not. Unfortunately, many of the pediatricians who diagnose these conditions and prescribe powerful medication to children who in most cases do not need them, are not either.

  61. This is a dangerous and misleading article. Children with ADHD are not just “anti authoritarian”, interesting people who can think beyond rules. Kids with ADHD aren’t choosing not to follow rules, they can’t understand them and control themselves long enough to do so. Did you know that kids with ADHD die at 5x higher rates than do other kids? So, while you’re arguing for not pathologizing kids with ADHD, you’re basically ignoring the very serious consequences of this disorder. Further, you misunderstand Rule Governed Behavior. This is a phrase coined by Skinner. Rule Governed Behavior is behavior that adheres to the general rules or sequences of things we need to do. If you read even an iota of Barkely’s work (See: Behavioral Inhibition, Sustained Attention, and Executive Functions:
    Constructing a Unifying Theory of ADHD), you would know that “rules” in this case, do not at ALL refer to rules as laid out by an adult or “mainstream psychiatry” or anything like that. An example is that to pay for your groceries, you wait in line, you wait for the checker to check your items, tell you the total. You get out your money etc etc. Rules govern all of these things. Kids with ADHD have trouble waiting for the sequence. They aren’t sure when to wait and when to act.

    Kids with ODD are even worse off. It isn’t just that they are eccentric free thinkers who CHOOSE not to follow rules. They go out of their way to defy ANY adult’s instructions, regardless. They are easily angered, spiteful and go out of their way to take revenge on anyone who tells them what to do. These are not children who do well in school and a chunk of them will go on to get much much worse. These are the kids who, at 8, when asked to do a chore, say “f*ck you, mom. Make me.” This is early anti-social behavior, not early creative, free thinking behavior.

    This article is dangerous and so are you. Plus, it isn’t “duel” diagnosis although this perhaps reveals your own tendency toward adversarial interactions. It is a “dual” diagnosis.

    • If one is going to talk about “Rule Governed Behavior is behavior that adheres to the general rules or sequences of things we need to do,” then we can start with the very premise of biological psychiatry. And that is that we’re told that there’s a biological disease. To say that there is a biological disease, you need proof. And when treating a biological disease, you need to reduce the occurrence of the disease, not increase it. And when treating a chemical imbalance, you need to treat a proven chemical imbalance, not cause one with the treatment.
      There are many ways to help children who have the difficulties talked about. Telling them that there is something wrong with their brain, when there is no proof for this, isn’t something that honors the sequence of logic.

  62. Interesting article

    However I would rather conclude that Anti-Authoritarians are diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder because of a lack of focus and discipline.

    Sadly there are kids in primary school age or even below who are given the power to decide where the family will have its holidays, as if a kid could bear the burden of taking important decisions.

  63. I’m a working class gal, raised poor and raised by folks who patently distrusted traditional authority because of painful experiences with people in authority and concurrent feelings of powerlessness. In many ways, my family members internalized this hurt and socialized me to do the same but I didn’t. Now that I’m older, educated, and working as an outspoken, non-conforming adjunct professor I’m called “unprofessional” or “inappropriate” when I don’t follow the status quo…I’ve also been called “emotional,” which has psychological connotations. Reading this helps me not internalize the b.s., thank you.

  64. People in the US do not understand how to have a reasonable discussion – we are so used to point-counterpoint, to the standard set for us in the media that all discussion be “provocative,” that we don’t know how to reach some kind of medium ground.

    ADD is overdiagnosed and underdiagnosed. When you have someone who cannot recall three random letters if there is ANY distraction, that has nothing to do with authoritarianism one way or another. But such a patient, if easy-going, often won’t get diagnosed – at least, not by the schools (depending on where you are). “He’s a good kid – just lacks motivation, but it will come as he matures.”. In the meantime the kid goes through k-12 missing a lot of what he/she should ne learning because, like Calvin, he/she is off with Hobbes somewhere. Not to mention that in the arcane method of grading everything from 1-100 (who decided that?), a zero can kill your GPA.

    As for schizophrenia, the few schizophrenics I have known have lived much of their lives in fear of something scary their brain says is going on. Doesn’t make it easier to handle authority, but as for me, I’d be more concerned about a life lived in fear of invisible things.

    The point about anti-authoritarianism getting diagnosed as a mental illness is a good one – but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There remain individuals who are deeply scarred and in need of help.

    • Schizophrenia doesn’t exist any more than witches existed. There was no test for witchcraft, still no physical test for schizophrenia.

      If you do not hear “voices” of conscious then you are a psychopath. You do hear voices for you feel sympathy for ” individuals who are deeply scarred and in need of help”, but you say you don’t hear voices.

      “a life lived in fear of invisible things” you have got to be kidding me.
      A life lived in anger of invisible things is better? Reminds me of “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” a ruler in Hell, or a servant in Heaven.

  65. VERY nice straw-man and appeal-to-authority arguments in this thread! Quite a few slippery slopes as well, and a handful of ad-hominem attacks as well.

    My thought is this – if there are many people who are anti-authority because they see the authority as inadequate/unqualified/etc, then why not get better authority figures, America? Just a thought…

  66. I absolutely agree that the ODD diagnosis is overused to describe independent behavior that does not conform to authority. Young people who stand up for themselves are often labeled as trouble makers in our schools.

    Would that the authorities who pasted these labels on my children could see the wonderfully successful adults they are now!

  67. I just wanted to thank you for this. It’s like someone looked deep inside my mind and put it on a page.

    This explains a lot about my bad experiences in school, why in the late ’80s I was given Ritalin even though I’ve never been anything you could describe as “hyper”, and the way I operate as an adult.

    Thanks again for a well-written article!

    -Mike

  68. Read a definition of mental health and it will include such language as…and an ability to live as mentally healthy without detriment upon ouselves or others of any fashion . It isnt an easy an aim to some but I believe that it isnt exactly difficult. What is difficult is achieving it.

  69. Levine brings up some good points that are often overlooked. But I question his use of and focus on the concept of “anti-authoritarian.” There are two reasons for this. First, it is a label applied to people, which like most labels applied to people, can easily become a stereotype, a pathology, or be viewed as a “cause of everything”. Second, I think it focuses attention too narrowly and thereby may draw attention away from the bigger, more complex picture of “authority”. Thus I think it would be better to focus on the following three “sub-concepts” of authority, and their interplay with different people in different situations:

    1. Authoritarian (which could refer to a style, to behavior, or to personality)

    2. Positional (or credentialed) authority (For example, police officer, assigned teacher, licensed professional, having a degree in a particular subject, being the boss or supervisor in a workplace.)

    3. Perceived authority (which could also be called perceived competence, or perceived respect, or legitimacy in the eyes of the beholder)

    Of these three, positional/credentialed authority is the least subjective – the position or credential is easily pointed to and often relatively easily verifiable. “Authoritarian” is a bit more subjective, since people may have different definitions or characterizations of what this word means. I think of it as characterized by black-and-white thinking, making snap judgments (often based on strict rules, but sometimes based on an internal sense of having “good insight,” and sometimes an attitude of “I am in the position of authority, so it is my prerogative to decide), and/or valuing “control” or “power”, especially over others.

    Perceived authority is the most subjective: Different people may perceive the same person as having or not having authority in their eyes.

    These sub-concepts can interact in various ways. For example, some people may regard positional/credentialed authority as adequate reason for perceived authority, and/or may believe that authoritarian behavior is appropriate for someone having positional/credentialed authority. Others may fit Levine’s characterization of anti-authoritarian (“Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously”). But there are other possibilities as well. I will give my own case as one example. Some other people may fit a similar pattern; others may be able to give still other patterns that fit them.

    Until about age twenty-five, my default assumption regarding authority was the opposite of Levine’s characterization of anti-authoritarian. In other words, I assumed people in positions of authority were competent/legitimate unless/until I had evidence to the contrary. In some cases, there was indeed evidence to the contrary, but for the most part, my default seemed correct. Around age 25 (perhaps as a result of increasing competence, and resulting increased self-confidence), I realized that someone whom I regarded as an authority was sometimes self-contradictory. Slowly, over about fifteen years, additional such realizations accumulated. For example, I realized that someone who was very nurturing for me was quite the opposite for someone else. I realized that people in positions of authority could be very competent in some ways but not in others. (Finding myself in a position of authority certainly brought that realization home.) I realized that our judgments of competence are in large part based on our values, and that different people may have very different values. I worried about my own competence and my ability to do my job well and in an accountable, justifiable way.

    This brings up another complication with attitudes toward authority: They are based on one’s values, and they may also evoke emotions. I have from childhood tended to feel intimidated by authoritarian behavior, and often somewhat fearful of people in positions of authority even if they aren’t authoritarian. In addition, authoritarian behavior or criticism from someone in a position of authority can trigger feelings of shame for me. However, these feelings are mitigated to varying extents if the “authority” in question has earned my respect.

    When I was in my early forties, these considerations (along with my tendencies toward social phobias) were causing me a considerable amount of worry and frustration, as well as some fear and shame. I decided to try psychotherapy for help. I am sorry to say that I encountered three authoritarian therapists, one after the other, who did not earn authority in my eyes. (This was in the mid-eighties; I think the situation might be at least a little better now.) The first two didn’t even have an informed consent form. When I asked the first one questions about therapy, I got answers that seemed more appropriate for an unintelligent child that for an interaction between two well-educated adults. Also, she didn’t seem to care about addressing the problems I went to therapy for help with. When I told her I was quitting, she said My Problem was that I expected too much. That’s exactly the kind of authoritarian criticism (a sweeping criticism, not backed up be evidence, rather than a criticism pointing out a particular mistake) that I have problems dealing with.

    I felt shaken, and worried that I really did expect too much – but if I did, where could I look for help? Those feelings interfered with my ability to deal rationally with the next therapist. (The rational choice would have been to quit seeing her much sooner than I did.) When I asked her questions, she sometimes gave appropriate-for-an-unintelligent-child type responses, but also often gave authoritarian type responses such as, “Are you sure you’re not second-guessing me?”, “Do you realize you’re asking me to give up my control?”, “I get the feeling that you think this should be an intellectual discussion” (with a strong note of disdain on the word “intellectual”), or “Consider me to be like a computer; what you say goes in, mixes around with my training and experience, and out comes a response.” She also once said that what I needed was something like a mold that a brick is made in: when the brick is ready and the mold is taken off, the brick retains the shape of the mold. And when I said I was somewhat shy, she said, “You gave up your power.” I had never before encountered such a high authoritarian-to- perceived-competence ratio. This really hit my Achilles heel. I crumbled, and ended up in really bad psychological shape after unwisely sticking it out with her for three months. It was definitely an iatrogenic experience. I was shaken by my deteriorated psychological state.

    I did manage to make some efforts toward rationality in choosing the third therapist. I asked her if she let her patients (I decided to try a psychiatrist after negative experiences with two psychologists) know what she was doing. She assured me she did, so I tried her. Indeed, she was the first to have an informed consent form (although it only covered appointment and payment policies), and she did at first answer some questions and give some information about what she was doing and why. But when I (I think quite rationally) questioned her diagnosis of depression and her proposed treatment of medication, she changed her tune and got more authoritarian (but lost what little credibility she had earned). She started responding to questions by changing the subject, or saying, “I have my reasons,” or teasing me or laughing at me (which I found particularly hard to take in that context). At one point she said, “I can’t help you if you want to march to a different drummer.” (I had never considered marching to a different drummer to be a bad thing; part of what I sought in therapy was increased competence at marching to my own drummer, which included being respectful of others who marched to different drummers than mine). I (unwisely) stayed with her too long as well. (My irrational reasoning: I had already “failed” with two therapists; maybe it was my fault.) When I said I was quitting, she got in a parting shot, “You’ll never get better if you keep seeking the perfect therapist.” Ouch.

    Off and on for about twenty more years I tried other therapists – for help dealing with the effects of the initial three attempts. I’m happy to report that I was more careful in whom I went back to for a second or third appointment – I did get better at weeding out the very worst. But even the ones who showed some hopeful signs also did things that just didn’t make sense. For example, when I told one later therapist about some things therapist 2 did that didn’t make sense or seemed counterproductive or overly authoritarian, she said, “From what you’ve said, it sounds like [the previous therapist] felt close to you, so I don’t see what the problem is.” I was flabbergasted – I just don’t see how a therapist’s feeling close to the client means there is no problem.

    More than twenty-five years after my initial attempts at therapy, I still haven’t entirely gotten over my experiences. I still have intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and strong emotional reactions to reminders and thoughts of therapy. But I have gotten on with life as best I can. Sometimes it seems like running on two tracks.

    I seriously doubt that an authoritarian style is helpful therapy for anyone. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe it is helpful for some people. But I know it certainly wasn’t therapeutic for me.

  70. Thank you for your brave expression in world hostile to such an honest witnessing to what is going on. I am truly amazed at how many people are addicted to the labeling game and incurring outrageous debt in getting university degrees that teach questionable info as if it is some kind of holy grail.

    Of course, it is simply irresistible to those in denial, to those who are so fragile that they must always be right, and to those who don’t want or cherish accountability and response-ability because, it is always someone else who can take care of business.

    The fallacy of credentialed authority, and knowledge for that matter, lies in a profoundly unhealthy and dysfunctional society that has traded common sense intelligence for approval to be validated.

    Couple this with an impatient attitude where speed of doing and skimming the surface is perceived as “good enough” to know just about anything, and you’ll find you have entered the shallow end of your life offering ,you not much more than a wadding pool for your life.

    When a soundbite means more to you than an in depth conversation, text messaging is more cherished than a face to face conversation, fast food lunches truly satisfy, reality TV shows are worth your time and considered quality entertainment,and you favor and covet a piece of paper more than the wisdom of experience, your level of interests will have decayed to nothing more than bits and pieces or morsels of what could have been.

    Without depth, your heart eventually loses its passion and apathy takes its place, then you numb & divert your “too busy” time into the joys of mediocrity, compliance and capitulation because the passion of life costs you too much of your real self. Isn’t that numb? Isn’t that a blindness of faith that would rather believe than know, who would rather be safe than be free to be all one can be??! Of course!

    I think people fear being shallow and nobodies so much that they actually become the shallow nobodies an in their silent disgust, they try to force that same sterility onto those around them so that all the colors around them mute and dull to the same shades of grey all around them… in a stark orderliness where nothing really stands out.

    By contrast we have the wild side of this same coin, being gaudy, frivolous, bored, intoxicated with whatever party agent they can indulge their self with, and banging loudly on tin, droning out anything meaningful.

    Both have gone insane and point to sanity as if that is the dis-ease. Of course, their reasoning is that popularity is the metric of value not value itself.

    It’s a dangerous game, and rich societies/cultures in the past have collapsed when they “got stuck on stupid” in similar manners.

    Your article serves as a warning. Some see it, some don’t. The question is, do enough see it?

    Anti authority is often a label to “break the spirit” of an up and coming leader.

    All to Love,
    Sharon
    PS Anti authority is often a label to “break the spirit” of an up and coming leader.

  71. I’ve really been enjoying reading the comments to this excellent blog. Thank you, Dr. Levine, for attempting to break the crystallized therapeutic mold we’ve all come to assume as the only viable one. The only thing I would like to add is a virulent, loudly spoken “NO” to psychiatric drugs of all kinds. I know from my own experience after 20 years in therapy that anti-depressants only masked the underlying problem and did not solve in the least what was troubling me. The drugs took away my real feelings and vitality and therefore led me to make some very strange, destructive choices in my life. I am a strong proponent of the idea that “mental illnesses” come from repressed and denied feelings from childhood abuse. I use the word ‘abuse’ in its broadest meaning both physical, emotional, and sexual. Psychiatric drugs simply mask these hidden, painful memories which then become lodged in the body, only to express themselves in enigmatic ways through physical or mental problems (depressions, anxiety, etc). If you were taught to hide your feelings as a child, you will do it as an adult with either the help of drugs or an authoritarian therapist who will gladly tell you you’re overreacting to very real life events.

    • I should add that when I say “mental illness”, I’m not using it in the sense that psychiatrists or therapists use it. I don’t believe mental illnesses are something to be fixed, but rather understood and respected as real human reactions to life.

  72. I would like to focus on what kind of things we anti-authoritarians, or former anti-authoritarians can do to improve how we interact with culture. How do I, for example guide my child, or my students to deal with the authoritarian?
    The first big break I got in my own life regarding this issue which was certainly threatening my very life. It can be hard to want to live when you are marginalized or “pushed beneath the wheel”. J. Krishnamurti in his book Education and the Significance of Life points out the horrors of the general conditions of modern culture. I was relieved by this as with this article, to feel not alone and validated for my experiences. It was when he went on to suggest that what was required, if one wanted to make meaningful change in the world, was revolution. I had often felt this but had been utterly defeated in my efforts. As I read on he would describe an Inner Revolution, that there was a world within me as well as a world outside, but on the inside world, through self observation, the conflicts were resolvable. As I resolved the inner conflict I would be increasingly able to generate creative action on the exterior that would cause non-violent revolution. This would be where I was introduced to my inner self, and the getting to know this person has been a tremendous challenge, well worth it.
    Looking back now, at the relevance of this in terms of finding mental health and social adjustment, it surprises me that in the US we have not found a way to incorporate some self reflection, self knowledge, a way of identifying and understanding emotions and conflicts, into our curriculum.
    Anyway, this put me in an internal condition where I could begin to look for creative solutions to my issue with authority. Another big break came in reading Gandhi’s autobiography. I was thinking maybe I would discover how he came to oust the English from India without violence. I was not disappointed! It was counterintuitive to my way of thinking, raised as I was on American TV. Gandhi was extremely respectful, and extremely compliant to authorities who were oppressive. It was his discipline, not only to have absolute respect for them but to do whatever they might ask unless it went against his conscience. He chose his battles carefully, and when he decided to break a law, he did it with a gentle respect and spirit of sincere inquiry. Gandhi believed we were all connected by a common thread and had divine respect for all. So when he was putting his life on the line he was sacrificing it to his God, and not blaming the authorities for their ignorance, but praying that they would learn. Wasn’t this too what Yeshua (Jesus) was talking about when he suggested loving our enemies and praying for those who spitefully misuse you?
    So I was a able to begin to effectively teach this to some our nations kids with the biggest issues with the authoritarians in environments where I had plenty of opportunity to role model these things with the bosses there. I have had to break the rules a lot less than I would have thought, and have noticed the tendency of the authoritarian to melt when given genuine respect. In fact, I find that the power to respect someone who has no self respect is a key to free movement within hierarchical structures. Why should I blame anyone for not having found sufficient self respect to honor the people they have authority over? How often may they have seen this role modeled? It is a pandemic lack in our culture. This isn’t any one persons fault. So, with what I call positive respect I can offer this to somebody who is authoritarian (or an authority figure who has no genuine self respect). My test for this against the more common “ass kissing” is that the “asskisser” cannot stand up to peers or be kind to people they have authority over.
    Then there is negative respect. I found that I would often freeze up when I encountered an authority who did have self respect. I would have all of these feelings come up about the general lacking in this kind of attention in my life. I would be so overwhelmed, and then shocked that I couldn’t break down my own defense mechanisms enough to really import from the authoritative (or self respecting) person’s presence. So the negative respect is finding the internal ability to be vulnerable when we have the chance to appropriately trust someone.
    A little more on Gandhi’s way of breaking rules. As I said, he was extremely respectful to authority when breaking laws. He was accountable that he was breaking the law. He was fully willing to accept the consequences. He was humbly inquiring each authority into the purpose of the law. He would explain that he was a law abiding citizen, but couldn’t follow the particular law in good conscience unless they could explain to him how it wasn’t just hurting people. I think he was also very good at picking his battles. We don’t start in a utopian world. We have to start right here and now.
    The most recent discovery I have in understanding these kind of issues has come in study of the works of Ken Wilber, the great American philosopher in his Integral Philosophy and his AQAL map. He demonstrates for me, the role that development can play in an issue like this. The AQAL map is dynamic and somewhat complicated. It takes some time to incorporate, and it is helpful in finding the necessary compassion and appropriate expectation for the authoritarians. Spiral Dynamics (used by Ken) are a little too involved for me to use here, so I will use the simpler development summery. The three most basic stages in human development have been noticed by many to be, in one way of putting it: pre-conventional (or pre-conformist), conventional, and post-conventional. It would have been good for me to know, when I was giving my ultimate struggle against conformity which nearly cost me my life, that conformity was something one did and then moved beyond. If it had been presented as a passage instead of a destination. The average authority figure in my community growing up had no way of doing this since the culture itself was oriented to a conformed or conventional level of development. It was a pre-rational mythic-membership culture in which even reason (with it’s limitations exposed by Immanuel Kant) represented a series danger to the rigid adherence to literally interpreted mythic symbols.
    The thread posts I read following the blog came from all three stages of development and more and less healthy examples of each. I urge the authoritarian responders to realize that the pre-conventional responses will not suffer from validation. Look into motivational interviewing, roll with resistance. To reflect “wrong” expressions validates the individual not the mistake. More often when a “wrong” statement is made and simply reflected it can then be left behind by the individual.
    They couldn’t present conformity as a stage since they didn’t understand it that way. Be kind to your authoritarians! Their suffering is what they bludgeon us with! Find creative ways to get through to them, and do what they say if it is appropriate, even when their tone is not, I promise it will not result in existential death. True respect can respect another who doesn’t have it. How do we get there? Go through the motions. There may be times when you have to put everything on the line to avoid being hurt or hurting others. When this is done respectfully relationships are typically improved rather than damaged.
    Anyway, peace. I’m so happy others are looking at this stuff.

  73. good article man. /me like very much.

    you hit the nail on the head throughout.

    i was a bit like you growing up, but i didn’t do the homework later on, and i still passed with good grades.

    i know i don’t fit in, for many reasons, one of them being self-diagnosed asperger’s – which i see as being differently wired, not “abnormal”.

    who the hell defines what “normal” is anyway? people like you describe: authoritarians.

    i prefer to see people as individuals, with a history, ancestors, family, friends, and many things that make them unique.

    psychology today is more about making people compliant with the system, rather than treating them properly.

  74. Integrate oneself is the key. society perpetrates violence at many levels. there is no intention behind it Peer pressure is an example. See Socrates ideas on education as memory. Also on TED talks Sir Ken Robinson gives brief talk on similar matter. Psychiatry has overstepped the mark diagnosing and medicating too readily. They are driven by big pharma who are a headless monster driven by logic of profit to wild excesses of greed. Ciao

  75. I went through school too scared to question or think most of the time. Raised in a very authoritarian household and sent to a school that was the same. I struggled to concentrate to complete the boring tasks assigned & report cards all through elementary school say, “does good work but does not complete”. Jr high saw me struggling with self & wanting to die & considering ways to do so.
    In high school I became a passive-aggressive anti-authoritarian by being polite to my teachers & calling the male teachers “sir” – I don’t think they were ever quite sure as to how I meant it which was my rebellion against the system.
    Fast forward to my 30′s & my second child is exhibiting symptoms at school that I had. His grade 2 teacher recommends that we take him to a psychiatrist & get Ritalin. I refused – instead I read a lot of books on the topic & found one titled “Driver to Distraction” that had me crying & realizing that I probably had ADD without the hyperactivity & so does my son. I called a psychologist that my husband & I were seeing for marital issues & talked to her for an hour. Then when I got off the phone I realized that “the Truth shall set you free” really is true. I saw my family dr & he said I could try Ritalin but I decided to instead try life out with my new view of myself instead, as a person who struggles with authority when it does not makes not sense & therefore who struggles to do what authority deems needed. My last child, another boy, also has ADD. but we’re all thriving without the drugs! My children now 27, 26 & 18 all question things they hear, read or take part in. I think it is so great! They vote & vote against the favored candidate when they do not agree with policies. They are not sheep. They have learned to get along in society. I worked hard at helping them to know themselves & love themselves & each other. But they definitely are anti-authoritarian & I’m glad we didn’t let the psychiatrists get them on the drugs just so the teacher would be happier with the outcome in school.
    We need our minds to think & when people who think outside the “norms” are drugged how can they think?
    Teachers need to be trained to be supporters of our kids and to love our kids. The only good teachers that my kids had were the ones who had these traits.
    Thanks for this article & thank you to all of those who posted their comments. Yeah for being able to think & to say “no” when those in authority are not doing what is best for all!

  76. What the article decries is repressively invalidating pathologigization and treatment of dissidence as such. Aside from psychotherapy for any actual disorders, a separate matter, dissidents need not only support in our travails, but nothing less than assistance in order to become more effective dissidents. -A crucial unmet need.

  77. I like your article and agree with you. I also like the way you write and express your point of view. Perhaps my writing style is similar in some way for I get people who entirely miss the point and others who just get it. Thank you, Alexander Nestoiter

  78. First, I have a question: “Am I OK because I’ve always responded to illegitimate authority with either disdain or contempt, or am I OK because I’ve had drugs that help me NOT do that?”

    In other words, Dr. Levine, could you control for societal factors FIRST – say one of your explanatory variables might be “GenXer” (typically “distrustful of authority”), and forget the pharma-clinical for a second. Then I’m sure you might find an interaction, upon examining the psychological, that will require interpretation. You may be making too much of clinical assessment and compliance.

    That is, we all don’t treat our contempt of authority by drugs – many of us are just forced to shut up and pucker up. It’s the way we RESPOND to illegitimate authority that gets us in trouble – often the response is beyond the measure of “rationality” because we take it personally.

    Pat

  79. It’s been a while since this article was published and I don’t know if my comments will ever be read, but I feel I should post them anyway.

    I felt as though this article was written for me. I was especially struck by this passage: “Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized ; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.” Amen to that. In order to keep my job and avoid trouble I have to live a lie and it’s killing my soul. Multiply that by millions of others like me and you have the modern world with all of its hopelessness and despair.

    I have anxiety and mild depression. I feel these problems are almost completely related to work and some other aspects of modern society. My anti-authoritarianism is quite conscious. I thoroughly analyze all authority figures in my life and if I don’t feel they’re legitimate, or if I feel they abuse their authority, I will not only refuse to cooperate with them (so far as I’m able), but also continually look for ways to expose and undermine them. I know that I’m not mentally ill, but I have taken Xanax and similar drugs just to cope with the spirit-crushing boredom and drudgery of my daily work routine and the subsequent anxiety I feel about getting out of bed each morning (I’ve used pot too by the way, and it generally works quite well as long as you don’t get an inferior strain that fosters anxiety).

    What bothers me is that the healthcare industry wants to blame my problems on my chemistry, rather than the actual cause – a civilization that is increasingly homogenous, authoritarian and prone to quash real individuality. Labeling anyone who doesn’t fit into the traditional mold as “sick” is a very dangerous trend that can only produce catastrophic results for society as a whole.

  80. This really resonates!:
    “Many people with severe anxiety and/or depression are also anti-authoritarians. Often a major pain of their lives that fuels their anxiety and/or depression is fear that their contempt for illegitimate authorities will cause them to be financially and socially marginalized; but they fear that compliance with such illegitimate authorities will cause them existential death.”
    I’m severely depressed most of the time & felt I could not comply with the registration requirements to become a clinical psychologist as they stood, so I’ve had a continuing fight to be considered worth listening to on any matters psychological, including teaching it to college students. I’ve lacked career progression as I’ve not “sucked up” to the right people because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now people suggest that my overwhelming desire to get meaningful work should mean starting right at the bottom again as a checkout operator, rather than resume in health research where I have a good, long reputation; but as a paradigm-challenger (sometimes successful). To me being a checkout operator would be existential death, probably shortly followed by self-induced real-life death. The authorities I keep challenging are too powerful for me to shift in my own lifetime, I fear. I also know countless others, esp. young men who are just being taught things the wrong way for their natural mindset. No one has to sit in a classsroom 8 hours a day to learn something worthwhile for real life.

  81. I agree with Bruce about the misdiagnosis of anti-authoritarians as mentally ill, however I think people contributing comments are giving the authority figures far too much credit. I don’t honestly believe they have the intelligence necessary to mastermind some manner of mass compliance-building initiative for the sake of doing so. I think it’s entirely more likely that blind compliance leads to productive yet uninspired living. Because individuals who deal well with authority, structure, and compliance are more predictable, they tend to be more desirable by the corporate structure. As a result, they end up becoming the authority over others and just see it as the “correct” way of thinking. Most of them aren’t deliberately malevolent, I don’t think… but rather, too stupid for the authority they hold because they earned it with compliance, not merit.

  82. Interesting. I am a “creative” type who has learned conformity to a degree. My first grade teacher wanted a diagnosis and started a campaign to have me sent to a psychoanalyst. Luckily, I had to been seen by my doctor first, who made me admit I just had this teacher’s number and had no respect for her. Her smile was insincere. She baby-talked to kids in that Romper Room voice. Oy vey. It still makes me “crazy.” That horrible file followed me through primary school till my sixth grade teacher called a meeting with me and my parents to explain it and add an amendment that creative people can be challenging, but that does not make them mentally ill.

  83. This is exactly right.

    I am a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. Making a diagnosis I am a political act: I, the person in “authority,” declare something about a “subordinate” person. We confuse applying metaphors for human experience (i.e., diagnoses) with knowing something definitely true about a person.

    I work with many people with so-called autism. Making that diagnosis is the ultimate gesture of an authority declaring something about society, determining what is “normal” and what is deviant.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I should have that power.

    Christina Emanuel, MFT, PsyD
    Pasadena, CA

  84. When I was a young man I taught in Catholic high schools. I’ve taught in coed, all girls, and all boys schools. It always interested me that in the coed schools little attention was paid to uniforms but in the segregated by sex schools there was a demand for conformity that was unbelievable. Not only were students in these schools required to wear uniforms, but in many of these segregated schools the uniforms were military in nature. The students were not allowed to “personalize” their uniforms in any way and attempts to do so were met with trips to the office of the disciplinarian. In the coed schools teaching students to think was always encouraged but this was not the case in the segregated schools, especially not in the all boys schools. In one such school a small group of intelligent boys, seeking an outlet for their talents, started an underground newspaper. There was absolutely nothing detrimental to the administration or faculty of the school in the first and only volume “published.” This school was run by a religious order of brothers and the brother who was the principal became absolutely enraged and obsessed with the “newspaper.” He sent brothers out to the print shops near the school to “investigate” to see what they could turn up. He had teachers verbally examining “suspected” students. He literally frothed at the mouth over this innocent attempt at creativity. He claimed that this terrible flaunting of “authority” was a disgrace and a danger to the school. Eventually, all four students were tracked down by the inquisition and it took the intervention of numerous teachers to keep them from being expelled from the school. I refused to collect any copies of the ‘newspaper” that I found and even took a copy into my religion classes for discussion. At the end of that school year I was told that I no longer had a teaching position there because I “didn’t fit in with the teaching philosophy of the school.”

    Not every Catholic school is like this but many Catholic schools are not allowed to be hotbeds of creative and off the wall thinking in any way, shape, or form and thinking outside of the box is always considered to be incendiary and antiauthoritarian. Many of our public schools are the same.

  85. ODD symptoms include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules” and “often argues with adults.”

    Isn’t this the definition of a Teenager? Are you serious? You can put every child and teenager on this list. That is a teenagers job to test the boundaries, argue with authorities, and disobey the rules. If one of my kids hadn’t done any rebelling as a teen, I would have thought something was wrong with them. As far as ADHD & ADD goes. ADHD stems back to tribal times. When we had hunting tribes and agricultural tribes.

    Every characteristic of a hunter are the same as they are for ADHD people. The small noises that distract us, we need to hunt our prey in the woods. Our detailed orientedness, helps us see small details in order to track our prey like broken twigs, animal droppings, and animal tracks. Our impulsiveness, the ability to turn and run on the spot if we happen upon a bear or something. The more we progress in society, the less we need these skills. It doesn’t mean we’ve lost or instincts thou. We still have them, only we don’t really need them in situations like sitting in a classroom, in a meeting, etc…

    I don’t see my short comings as a label. I them as obstacle to overcome. Example: I look at the criteria for ADHD in the DSM. Each criteria listed for ADHD or the ones that are true for me are obstacle’s in my life or my short comings. I work on one obstacle at a time till I find a way to overcome that obstacle in my life. When I hear people or doctor’s say that adults out grow ADHD, thier wrong. How can a person outgrow their instincts? We haven’t outgrown ADHD, we have simply learned to adapt.

  86. Story of my life. I’m 36, I’ve been diagnosed with and prescribed almost everything under the sun at one time or another, but from my point of view the biggest problem throughout my life is a fundamental and incorrigible resistance to being told what to do by people not worthy of my – or anyone’s – respect and obedience.

    Of course, this state of mind has brought with it some serious problems, and been accompanied by others that may or may not be related: heavy addiction, repeated institutionalization, difficulty keeping jobs, medication to the point of stupefaction.

    My psychiatrist – sadly, the best I’ve found yet – insists I take more medication than I need. I’ve lowered dosages with no ill effects only to have him insist I take the higher dose or prescribe something else. So now I take a bit less than half of what I’m prescribed for most of my meds, but since I tell him I’m taking it all he thinks I’m OK.

    I swear, you get diagnosed schizophrenic or bipolar and the whole world thinks you’re one misstep away from a murderous rampage.

    As for work, I’m a self-employed computer tech. No bosses! Also, if I don’t like a client I can just politely leave and never have to see them again.

    It certainly wasn’t easy getting to this point of relative stability, mostly because society in general – and the mental health profession in particular – make it harder than it needs to be to opt out of the general culture of obedience and conformity.

    Looking at my youngest nephew, it’s like watching myself at a young age. Luckily for him, he has someone who’s already traveled a similar path and can assist him – if he wants it. I certainly know well enough not to insist, but to offer, and let him make his own decisions.

    I don’t know about other people with anti-authoritarian tendencies, but usually that’s all I’ve really wanted: the chance to make my own decisions and not be unfairly punished simply for disagreeing.

  87. Am I the only one who sees the irony in these comments? Either conform by agreeing with everything in the article or you’re an authoritarian.

    I am definitely an anti-authoritarian, and yet I’ve worked in the mental health field with emotionally disturbed children for 16 years. I pick my battles with administration, but in general I do find many “authorities” to be empty heads.

    That said, I do think the author of the article makes too broad generalizations at times, and actually mischaracterizes ADHD to an extent. I’ve worked with many a kid who was probably misdiagnosed (sometimes anxiety can cause inattention) but also quite a few who I would characterize as legitimately ADHD. They simply cannot focus from one moment to the next. It’s not about noncompliance or authority. I do have to agree mostly about ODD. I’ve had many talks with anti-authoritarian kids advising them to just go with the program because it’s the only thing that’s going to get them discharged. That’s just learning to adapt.

    I think part of the problem is that the author is himself an “authority.” Very few psychiatrists and psychologists I’ve worked under spend enough time with the clients to get to know them and actually see what’s going on with them. And, like the author, they tend to make some ignorant judgments, often with sweeping generalizations.

    • Instead of spending your career advising kids to subvert their reasoning skills and “just go with the program,” perhaps you could put your time to more valuable use and truly help the kids by working to dismantle such programs that often do more harm than good (but make parents and politicians feel better since it enables them to check the box saying that they tried “something” regardless of its dehumanizing means or damaging consequences).

    • I would not argue with your general observations. Obviously not ALL “ADHD” kids are anti-authoritarian, nor are all who are labeled “mentally ill” anti-authoritarian, either. However, I would dispute the idea that because someone “cannot focus one moment to the next” they are “legitimately ADHD.” There is no legitimacy to a “disorder” that is diagnosed with a checklist invented by clinicians sitting around a table voting on how many criteria are needed to justify a “diagnosis.” There are all kinds of people in the world, some of whom are happy to and capable of focusing on whatever you ask them to, some of whom can’t or won’t focus on things that are not of intense personal interest to them. Why are the latter classified as “disordered?” For the simple reason that they are INCONVENIENT for the authorities. Which goes back to the author’s point.

      I raised two kids who had a very hard time focusing when they were in early elementary school. We wisely avoided standard classrooms and used homeschooling and open classroom alternatives. Both became very successful academically and athletically, and the younger is very socially popular at his high school, while the older is a hard-working and successful employee of a community helping organization. I never believed there was anything wrong with them because they could not/would not sit in a desk at the age of 6 and fill out worksheets handed to them by harried and overworked teachers.

      Interestingly, the oldest is pretty authoritarian in some ways, while the youngest is extremely anti-authoritarian. But both fit the ADHD criteria to a tee at 5 or 6, neither received any “treatment” besides some very creative parenting, and both turned out to be good and successful citizens of the realm. Doesn’t sound like there was anything wrong with either of them, except that they didn’t fit into societal expectations of what makes a “good student.” Which is pretty much the definition of “ADHD” – “Annoying in a standard classroom” and “impatient with the dull and the arbitrary.”

      There is no “legitimate ADHD.”

      — Steve

      • We’ll have to agree to disagree on that, Steve. Nobody said that just because one has ADHD (unable to focus) they can’t grow into successful adults. I sure didn’t. Besides, I’m not talking about just not being able to focus on boring stuff that doesn’t interest the kid.

        It’s good that you were able to raise yours with creative parenting, but your experience isn’t necessarily everyone’s. I definitely agree with you on the stupidity of one-size-fits-all classrooms. Heck, I know I would have benefited from a non-standard classroom myself, although I coped and navigated it successfully.

        • I am not saying that nobody fits the criteria that define ADHD. I am saying that calling it a DISEASE or MENTAL DISORDER is not legitimate. I am saying that genetic diversity is the core of species survival, and that many of those who get the ADHD label are simply one variant (or probably a huge range of variants with this behavioral overlap) of the genetic options available. My kids struggled in many ways, but they were also incredibly gifted in many ways. There may be a very unusual case here or there that involves actual damage to the brain, but for my money, “unable to focus” is not necessarily a disease or disability, it’s just a fact of life some people have to deal with, like running more slowly than others or having a genetic propensity to carry more fat. We all have our challenges, but this particular one is 95% created by our classroom expectations.

          There was a great study done back in the 70s where they put matched “ADHD” kids in an open classroom vs. a standard classroom, and asked professionals to identify which children had the label. In the standard classroom, they hit over 90% correctly. In the open classroom, they essentially could not tell the difference. Pretty dramatic results, eh? So ADHD appears to disappear when we change the classroom structure.

          Of course, there are some kids who don’t do well in an open classroom. You’re right, there is no “one size fits all” school. But I wouldn’t take the kid who couldn’t function in the open classroom setting and call them “overstructured” and put them on a drug to make them better able to tolerate the classroom. I’d put them in a more structured classroom. It’s not their fault they don’t do well in that setting, and it’s not the “ADHD” kids’ fault he doesn’t do well in the standard classroom. It’s high time the adults realized that it’s our job to adjust the environment to meet the needs of the kids, not the other way around.

          By the way, I’m really sorry you didn’t get the opportunity to learn in an environment like our youngest son has had. I know it would have made a huge difference to you. It’s very child-centered and adapts a learning plan for each kid, plus you get to sign up for what you want to or create your own projects, and you get to work in groups or even create your own classes. It’s the perfect environment for the active and intense kind of kids that usually get whacked with that label.

          Anyway, I appreciate your respectful response, and absolutely accept that you have your own framing of your situation and would not want to take that away from you. What I hate is when someone foists their own view of “normal” on someone else, just because they don’t fit the other’s expectation. It’s particularly irksome when that person has power over the victim and chooses to use it to degrade and diminish rather than to understand and create. So I get passionate about it.

          You sound like an awesome human being. Well done for surviving your “education!”

          — Steve

  88. Fascinating articles, both this and the piece on the rise of antidepressant prescriptions linked here. Thank you. I don’t think enough can be said about the drastically different way of living that has swept us all up with so little written on it in the last 40 years or so. Well, much has been written, but little connected to the mental health industry. Of course people who are overstimulated and expected to rise to great heights (instead of simply living where their families always have, while working the same profession) are constantly facing their own limitations and responding with some level of depression and anxiety. Similarly, how many people still live anywhere near extended family? Or even around people they grew up around? We’re increasingly isolated, moving from place to place and charged with finding ourselves in transplant societies that have little sense of community whatsoever. Those frustrations can be easily interpreted as depression, especially once it was marketed as a disease of chemical imbalance.

    Apologies for the tangent, just always something I’m thinking about. It’s amazing that anyone can fight back when every aspect of their personalities has been labeled a symptom of a mental illness. It is gaslighting on an complete level of being that I don’t think we have ever encountered on this scale as people. The closest parallel is in religious movements, which is one thing that frightens me the most about psychiatry. It’s all in the dogma, baby.

  89. They government has found some neat ways to use this in their favor. For Example: The Adam Walsh Act. (The act allows permanent incarceration for anyone deemed a sexual predator and mind you this is all done through federal even though criminal has always been the state’s place.) So that you know, the criminal law is about whoever we hate the most. Howev er, just by proxy of being a criminal, you are protected by your Constiutional Rights.. and that presented a big problem because you can not be tried for a crime you might commit in the future. So, officials wait until the time is almost served , and they have them committed and later brought before a judge to establish that due to mental illness they are a serious threat to children and once they have been treated, they can represent their case. Notable: The quickest way to strip someone of thei rights is to have them committed. Also, no such mental disorder actually exists, and since no actual disorder exists, no treatment exists, so how do they expect to be cured and released. I bet Congress is still patting itself 0n the back for denying (and lying to do it) suspect classificaation .

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