Disease

I quite frankly couldn’t think of a good title for this post.  Shush.

So, here’s what I was thinking about yesterday: how many kids diagnosed with ADD/ADHD/Asberger’s actually have it?  Before the shitstorm begins, yes I do acknowledge that they are real diseases.  Part of the problem is that the symptoms are hard to track, particularly with Asberger’s. 

  • Not pick up on social cues and lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized. (www.webmd.com)
  • Hoshi- that sounds like half the teenagers I know!  Call a doctor, they must have something wrong with them!

    Although I admit, the teenager thing is much more rampant with diagnosing ADD.  The symptoms are so common in people, that really diagnosing it is hard.

    • Procrastination; difficulty getting started on projects
    • Excessive disorganization and messiness
    • Inability to prioritize tasks
    • Underestimating the time needed to finish a task
    • Easily bored
    • Low tolerance for frustration and stress
    • Unstable, unpredictable moods
    • Quick temper
    • Constant worrying (www.helpguide.org)

    Hmm, does that sound like a teenager you know?  Does it sound like all the teenagers you know?  Yes.  Yes it does, and you know it.  That’s why we’ve seen an increase in ADD diagnoses over the last few years.  “The results: a 500% increase in the number of children labeled and medicated with Ritalin for ADD-ADHD from 1990-1995.” (www.add-adhd.org)  Why does it seem unlikely to me that even a majority of those cases were authentic?

    Part of the problem is that parents nowadays are pushing for their kids to be medicated when anything happens.  “My kid’s moody because I grounded them?  They must be bipolar!  They need medication!”  “Oh no, little Johnny’s grade went down from an A to a B?  He must have ADD!  Give him drugs!”  Et cetera.  That needs to stop.  Like, now.  Medicating your teenager will not solve all their problems, and may in fact make them worse.  Just because they don’t conform to your idea of “your perfect angel son/daughter” doesn’t mean they need drugs shoved down their throats.  Oftentimes, the drugs A) don’t work.  B) do more harm than good.  C) aren’t proven in people under the age of 18.

    Look at Prozac, for example.  They’ve proven that it doesn’t work.  It has no more power than a placebo effect.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/feb/26/mentalhealth.medicalresearch  It’s used by more than 40 million people around the world, and it doesn’t work on the majority of them.  That’s what I call an enforced placebo.  We’re told it works by people we trust, and we naturally assume it does.  But they were told the same thing.  So we think it works, and we feel our symptoms going away.  Well, it may not be the best thing for depression, but it works inadvertently at least.  Placebos can be better than nothing.

    Another factor is that among teenagers, it’s become “fashionable” to have certain disorders, in order to get pity and attention.  Depression, bipolar, Asberger’s, Tourette’s, and the like.  It kind of disgusts me, quite frankly.  Not only are they lying/attention-whoring/uneducated twats, but they don’t actually know what it’s like to have said diseases.  It gets to the point where it’s hard to tell who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.  the only really good indicator I’ve found is that those who genuinely have it, won’t brag about it.  Those who don’t, will never shut up about it so they can form a massive hugbox for themselves.

    Another possibility (although it’s more likely with difficult to diagnose physical diseases as opposed to mental ones) is the idea of a socially contagious disease.  http://www.slate.com/id/2171214/  Here’s a news article that addresses it pretty well.  The theory is hard for me to explain in my own words, but there’s a good example in So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (one of these days I’ll stop quoting him and put things in my own words, but not today).

    “There was a garment factory in South America back in 1962.  One Friday one of the workers there got sick and said she’d been bitten by bugs while handling cloth from England.  Then two more workers had to be hospitalized with fainting and hives.  By the next Wednesday, it was an epidemic.  Sixty workers on the morning shift fell ill, and the federal government sent in a team of doctors and bug specialists.  They discovered the following:

    1. There were no poisonous bugs, from England or anywhere else.

    2. The workers’ various symptoms matched no known illness.

    3. The sickness hadn’t affected everyone on the morning shift, only workers who knew each other personally.  It spread through social groups rather than among people who had worked with the suspect cloth.

    It looked like a scam, but the victims weren’t faking.  The disease was sociogenic, the result of a panic.  As the rumors of illness spread, people thought they felt bugs biting them, then a few hours later they developed symptoms.  It really works.  Watch this: Bugs on your leg…bugs on your back…bugs crawling through your hair…bugs, bugs, bugs.  Okay, do you feel the bugs now?”

    It happened again with a well-known episode of Pokemon.  I think you know what I’m talking about.  The episode that happened to hit the right sequence of flashing lights and colors to cause seizures.  The first time the episode was showed, only a few kids actually had seizures.  Of course, the next day, they told all their friends on the playground about what happened, so when they saw the clip on the evening news, they had seizures as well.  A sociogenic epidemic.

    Have I given you enough to think about yet?  Nope, I don’t think I have.

    Do you know why it was almost all children that were affected by the show?  Yes, it was a children’s show.  But there were a lot of parents watching right alongside their kids.  It’s because the younger the mind is, the more easily rewired it is.  Some people retain this, oh…rewireability throughout their lives.  Paka-paka, as the sequence of colors that causes the seizures is called, has a much higher chance of working on minds that aren’t fully developed yet.  So therefore, more children were affected by the show.  I think I’ve mentioned before that it doesn’t take a hell of a lot to rewire me.  I’m hoping it stays that way.  It’s a good thing.

    Human Body: Pushing the Limits

    I’ve been watching the Human Body special on Discovery (yes, I’m the person who stays home on Saturday nights to watch documentaries).  I mean really watching it.  They’re showing it on a loop, and I swear I’ve seen the Brainpower episode three times.  It is truly fascinating.  I’ve always been interested in biology, although my science classes have really only done human body units this year.  Learning all these new things has made me realize: we are bloody miracles.  Every last one of us.  We can do extraordinary things that nothing else can.  The scary part?  So few of us do.  Most people are content to live an ordinary life.  That’s always annoyed me.  I can’t understand it for the life of me.  I want to do things with my life.  I want to meet new people, learn new things, and make experiences.  But not everyone wants that.

    OK, this has gone off into a philosophical tangent, which it wasn’t supposed to.  The narrator just said, “…which is no longer compatible with life.”  I admit, I laught.  That’s great.  Compatible with life…nice.  But, getting back to my original point, humans are a truly remarkable species.  The impact we’ve had on the Earth is tremendous.  Maybe not always in a good way, but it’s true.  This is like when I watched the Life After Man special on History Channel.  The things we’ve done to the world wouldn’t truly be gone for at least 10,000 years if we were to suddenly disappear right now.  Yes, some big things would happen within a week, but the Hoover Dam, the Pyramids at Giza, even Mount Rushmore would last for millenia.  It’s almost reassuring to know that it hasn’t all been for naught.  And by “it” I mean thousands of years of human civilization.  It really is a fascinating concept.  I can tell my brain is being rewired to accommodate new ideas, new knowledge.  I’m easy to rewire.  Does that make me an Innovator?

    For those who don’t get the So Yesterday reference (Scott Westerfeld  http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/), Innovators are the people who think of new trends.  Here’s how he explains it (or rather, the main character, Hunter explains it): “At the top of the pyramid are the Innovators.  The first mythical guy to wear his baseball cap backwards.  When you meet them, most Innovators don’t look that cool, not in the sense of fashionable, anyway.  There’s always something off about them.  Like they’re uncomfortable with the world.  Most Innovators are actually Logo Exiles, trying to get by with the twelve pieces of clothing that are never in or our of style.

    “Next level down the pyramid are the Trendsetters.  The Trendsetter’s goal is to be the second person in the world to catch the latest disease.  They watch carefully for innovations, always ready to jump on board.

    “Below them are the Early Adopters.  Adopters always have the latest phone, the latest music player plugged into their ear, and they’re always the guys who download the trailer a year before the movie comes out.

    “Further down we have the Consumers.  The peopel who have to see a product on TV, placed in two movies, fifteen magazine ads, and on a giant rack in the mall before saying ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool.’

    “Last are the Laggards.  Proud in their mullets and feathered-back hair, they resist all change, or at least all change since they got out of high school.”

    Even for a work of fiction, it’s surprisingly accurate.  I’d say I’m mostly a Logo Exile with flashes of being an Innovator.  Where do you fall on the pyramid?  If you’re an Innovator, what’s your one special thing that makes you one?  Mine would have to be slang.  I invent words nigh on constantly (and they miraculously catch on), bring back old words, etc.

    Getting back to the original point, few people are easily rewired like that.  It doesn’t take a lot to change my entire outlook on life.  Even a simple documentary like this one can.  You know, if I could, I would download all the documentaries I’ve really liked over the years and put them all on an 80 GB iPod.  I would carry it around with me and watch them all the time.  I could educate the pervasively stupid masses!  We should all take that upon us as a task.  A New Year’s resolution, of sorts, without the New Year.  To teach people things.

     OK, I’m setting a new goal for me, and all who read this (which I’m sure isn’t many).  Teach someone something new everyday.  Sort of like a twist on the old proverb, “You learn something new everyday.”  And don’t teach them in a dry stuffy manner that so many teachers use.  Casually bring up something relevant to the topic at hand, get your audience interested, and hit them with the facts.  It doesn’t have to be anything big.  It can be something as simple as a trivia tidbit.  Knowledge is power, even in a world ruled by seeming idiots.  Don’t be afraid to put opinion into your little lessons, either.  Hell, get into a debate over it.  It’s a good thing.  Debate stimulates rational thought (don’t be afraid of overreaching that part of your brain, people; it gets enough rest while you sleep) and it usually provokes emotional responses.  Anything to reach through the little bubble of ignorance that so many people like to keep floating around their heads.

    In my last entry, I mentioned rereading Good Omens.  Once again, it’s a phenomenal book.  I’ve also noticed that it’s better if you read it in one session, than if it’s spread out.  The plot is so complex that it only gets jumbled if you stop reading for a while.  When I finished that, I reread Elantris, also mentioned in that post.  I noticed something in a scene that I hadn’t noticed before: Sarene, at Roial’s party, runs away from all the happy couples because it reminds her that Raoden is dead and that they could’ve been happy.  I noticed that I do that a lot.  Not when I’m single, but when I’m in a relationship, because they’re usually happier than I am.  I’m happier when I’m single.  Not that I would ever scorn love (being a romantic, and all), but I’m a teenager.  Teenage relationships very rarely end well.

    So, to summarize: humans rock, social hierarchies are easier to describe than I thought, we should all go out and teach people things, and teenagers are hormonally fucked up.  The end.