Is Every Personality Flaw A Condition?
July 15, 2014

Is Every Personality Flaw A Condition?

I have to admit, it was reading that one of my favorite entertainers, British comedian Lee Mack, was diagnosed as being ADHD at the age of 43 that made me think about this issue, rather than starting back at work teaching children and wondering how best to understand and relate to them, taking into account the myriad factors that make up a person’s personality. But whatever the reason for this being on my mind this week, it is an interesting question. How much of our behavior can be put down to us just being “us,” and how much of it, now or in the future, is diagnosable as a specific and potentially treatable condition?

It seems to be behavioral conditions in children that attract the most skepticism. Not only is there a large portion of the population who think that ADHD is basically a made-up idea, those who do believe it is a real thing admit that it is difficult to know where to draw the line between someone who is diagnosable and someone who simply has a personality of a certain type that is within normal boundaries. I have known people who have worked as educators, as teachers and later in senior administrative roles, who claim that dyslexia doesn’t exist and that people who many of us would say have it are just a bit dumb or lazy, just as some are as blunt as to say that people who are claimed to have ADHD are just “little shits.” Thanks, doctor.

There is a more considered, moral argument against trying to diagnose and treat everyone for all kinds of things than the hard-nosed, “cruel to be kind” and, in my opinion, outdated one mentioned above. It is the argument that trying to analyze and change people has a very dark history in the late 19th century and much of the 20th century, at its worst in the form of eugenics — trying to weed out anything considered to be, or indeed anyone considered to have, undesirable traits.

But I personally don’t believe that better trying to understand the human mind and where possible to treat recognizable problems with it has to be anything like the sinister processes of the past. The mind, some may even say the soul, is a very complicated subject, and whilst I do not wish to reduce every person to a lump of bones, organs, veins and arteries that can be fixed like a car engine (although I suppose it is not that far off my position), I do think that in future medical advancement will see us being able to treat problems related to the brain somewhere close to as efficiently as we can the rest of the body. It is simply that understanding of the brain is at an earlier stage. I do believe ADHD exists, and I believe that many people will benefit not only by having it treated, but simply by having it recognized by those around them. I think other kinds of sometimes unpleasant behaviors will be similarly treated in future, but with the important difference to the past being that is primarily for the benefit of person who has the condition, not for the greater good.

I realize this is all a very difficult concept in terms of the rat race, which needs people to fail. Once we are able to say that all lack of educational ability is as blameless as a physical disability in terms of it being unacceptable to refuse somebody a job for having it, will academic qualifications begin to seem like a cruel separation of people for things they have no control over, and are simply afflicted by? Even if one of those things, at our in many ways still unadvanced and barbaric period of history, may callously be described simply as “stupidity.” Well, who am I to say, I suppose; I may be afflicted with a soon-to-be-diagnosed condition that makes someone a sissy liberal and can be easily treated with a course of medication. But for now, this is my opinion.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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