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?