The Next Mental Illness?

Shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting, I read in the newspaper that the perpetrator suffered from Asperger’s syndrome:

…characterized by socially awkward behavior, difficulty in understanding or reading other people’s emotions, intense, narrow interests and rituals, and often high intelligence.

I found it chilling: they could have been writing about me when I was growing up.  So how come I didn’t turn into a mass murderer?

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I had trouble in school, not with my academic subjects, but with ‘fitting in with the group.’  The school was writing unpleasant letters to my parents, and my mother took me to see one of the noted psychiatrists at the time.  (Not that my parents were very rich, but my mother believed that if she went to just anyone, the school wouldn’t believe the report.)

“Nothing wrong with him: he’s just a smart kid,” the doctor reported.  “Take him to learn to swim.”

And my parents did exactly that, and I never had an encounter with a psychiatrist again.

But if I were growing up today, with the same habits and attitudes that I had back then, I’m sure that medical science would have found something wrong with me, and I’d end up getting medicated.  Perhaps, after an event like the Sandy Hook shooting, I might have even been considered dangerous.  (Not ‘dangerous’ in a cool way: ‘dangerous’ as requiring more and stronger medications.)

I am introverted.  It’s not that I want to spend my life locked up in my room: I like getting out and dealing with people about useful things. But I’m not really interested in just hanging out with people: I find it draining.  I am not a party person.

Up until fairly recently, I’ve assumed that some people are introverted, some extroverted, and some in-between.  And I haven’t considered it as very important.

But if employers are using psych tests to qualify candidates (maybe useful for a job as a spy, but over the top for office work), and looking not to hire introverts, is introversion the next mental illness?

5 thoughts on “The Next Mental Illness?”

  1. As I was reading that I was thinking of myself. I too have always been an introvert and am uncomfortable around people I don’t know or large crowds. When I was a kid I was even worse and would sit in a corner to avoid my classmates as much as possible.When I was in grade school the teachers (who often bullied me because I was too shy)would tell my parents I needed to be held back a year because of this. Keep in mind my grades were usually A’s and B’s with the occasional C. When I got into junior high I was very withdrawn after years of being bullied and this is when the school counselor convinced my parents I needed to go to a psychiatrist, one incidentally that was related to her. Without even examining me he decided I needed some kind of medication. Long story short this medication made my shyness even worse and my parents realized that I was just an extremely shy person who became more shy because I was bullied. I had another issue going on and that was I went through puberty early and was taller than my classmates and already had breasts when my female classmates were still wearing t shirts or maybe training bras.

    In high school I was still shy but wasn’t bullied so the shyness wasn’t as bad. However, because I was shy many of my classmates thought I was stuck up because I was pretty and active in activities like clubs and sports. Yes, I was still shy but involved in several activities that usually involve being outgoing like cheerleading and cross country. I am weird in that as an adult I sought out jobs that required being outgoing like radio and public relations. I also took drama classes which helped me a lot out of the shell but am still introverted. I mention this in another thread but I met a guy who is even shyer than I am. I believe he is interested (he does things like stare at me and smiles)and as we get to know each other we are feeling more comfortable towards each other but dating as an introvert is much different than an extrovert. He’s very socially awkward and he’s becoming very comfortable towards me but is still uncomfortable towards people he doesn’t know, and I am the same way.

    I have no doubt that I got rejected jobwise for this reason. On one test they even told me I am the wrong personality for the job. Employers always ask me about “teamwork” which is employer speak for “are you introvert or extrovert”.The jobs I tend to seek out now are not really jobs that require being outgoing, like training and marketing but do sometimes require dealing with people. I can deal with people I don’t know but on a professional level.

  2. Have you ever heard of the Edison Syndrome?

    You may have been an ES’er.

    These are kids that do not march to the usual drum. i’ve *heard* is is similar to Asperger’s but I don’t think it is.

    I was a very early reader. Therefore I was bored as hell from grades 1-3. The kids are just learning to read; you’re already reading beyond a third grade level and comprehending also. so SURE you’re gonna be bored.

    I got notes sent home and complaints galore from teachers and a couple were downright nasty to me (in the same bunch were 2 teachers who told my mother I’d never draw. So much for that one) I was told i was a daydreamer.

    My mother didn’t know how to handle any of this. I remember “Why Johnny Can’t Read” and “Why Our Schools are Failing” (I think that was the title or it was something like that title) being on the coffee table; my mother was reading these tomes.:(

    By the time I got to fourth grade, things were fine.

  3. I looked up Edison Syndrome, and wasn’t able to find out very much. But I don’t like to think of myself as suffering from a ‘syndrome.’

    I, too, was a very early reader. When I was five, I made the astonishing discovery that I could read much faster if I didn’t mouth the words I was reading. I was off to the races while my teachers thought I was just looking at the pictures.

    I did well in third and fourth grade because the teachers in those grades were better. But the problems returned, though not as badly, in the fifth and sixth grades. The problems vanished for good when I went to a different school for the seventh grade.

  4. I too was an early reader and so was my brother. However, my brother didn’t have the problems I did in school and I think besides being very outgoing, he being a boy had an advantage. I know in grade school I had a few teachers who didn’t encourage me much and in fact a few (the fifth grade teacher specifically)who went out of their way to discourage me. For me 1-3 were okay as in I had nice teachers 1-2 and a mean teacher in 3rd but she was mean to everyone. In 4th and 5th I had mean teachers who went out of their way to be mean, though strangely the 4th grade teacher left the school midway through the year.The fifth grade teacher was cruel to me and would single me out for bullying. 30 years later and I still hate her for what she did to me. This was also the only year I didn’t win any awards for spelling or reading, and every other year besides these I did. I’ve since found out she did this to many girls.

    Sadly I learned early on that girls are judged more for their looks than their brains and it has affected me a lot. My parents always had this attitude that my brother needed to have a brain to support a family and I needed looks to attract a rich man. They have since apologized for this but they treated me differently when I got good grades versus my brother.

  5. In a time when ADHD is a problem, I’d expect introverts to do somewhat better, if only because they are better at staying on task. I used to get a lot of grief for being introverted. because I like to read. I read and understood my eldest sister’s high school texts when I was in first grade. My college gave the incoming freshmen a battery of psychological tests, and two results that stick in my mind are that I scored 49 on the introversion/extroversion scale (I can take people or leave ’em, I guess), and that I was advised to have a lot of hobbies.

    So much of “teamwork” boils down to “Do what I say”.

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