Want to complicate your life? One way is to adopt secular categories for understanding the world.
For example, consider the following description of “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” (ODD) from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:1 (Yes, it’s long but that’s part of the point. And no, it’s not a joke.)
The essential feature of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that persists for at least 6 months (Criterion A) and is characterized by the frequent occurrence of at least four of the following behaviors:
1. losing temper (Criterion A1),
2. arguing with adults (Criterion A2),
3. actively defying or refusing to comply with the requests or rules of adults (Criterion A3),
4. deliberately doing things that will annoy other people (Criterion A4),
5. blaming others for his or her own mistakes or misbehavior (Criterion A5),
6. being touchy or easily annoyed by others (Criterion A6),
7. being angry and resentful (Criterion A7), or
8. being spiteful or vindictive (Criterion A8).
To qualify for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, the behaviors must occur more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level and must lead to significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning (Criterion B).
The diagnosis is not made if the disturbance in behavior occurs exclusively during the course of a Psychotic or Mood Disorder (Criterion C) or if criteria are met for Conduct Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder (in an individual over age 18 years).
Negativistic and defiant behaviors are expressed by persistent stubbornness, resistance to directions, and unwillingness to compromise, give in, or negotiate with adults or peers. Defiance may also include deliberate or persistent testing of limits, usually by ignoring orders, arguing, and failing to accept blame for misdeeds. Hostility can be directed at adults or peers and is shown by deliberately annoying others or by verbal aggression (usually without the more serious physical aggression seen in Conduct Disorder).
Manifestations of the disorder are almost invariably present in the home setting, but may not be evident at school or in the community.
Symptoms of the disorder are typically more evident in interactions with adults or peers whom the individual knows well, and thus may not be apparent during clinical examination.
Usually individuals with this disorder do not regard themselves as oppositional or defiant, but justify their behavior as a response to unreasonable demands or circumstances….
Whew, that was long and it was just an excerpt! …and you can bet the treatment for ODD is even more verbose. (Medications are, of course, available– with prescription.)
If, however, you were really paying attention, you probably recognized a more popular description for ODD– one that doesn’t take more than 340 words to express.
How about “misbehaving child”?
Misbehaving children can sometimes be difficult. “Medicalizing” them under comical labels like “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” trades simple solutions for complicated ones. The same thing is true for adult “disorders.”
In a society where things like ODD are taken seriously, the uncomplicated categories of sin and repentance are so refreshingly simple– and effective– and without prescription.
1Fourth edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.