Dear Moby And Miley: Please Shut Up About The Disorders You Don't Actually Have

Illustration for article titled Dear Moby And Miley: Please Shut Up About The Disorders You Dont Actually Have

In a profile in today's New York Times, Moby admitted that though he doesn't have Asperger syndrome, he likes to "pretend I do. It makes me sound more interesting." Yeah, no, Moby. It actually makes you sound like a dick.

Celebrities seem to have a habit of attempting to make themselves seem more fascinating or clever by whipping out a DSM-IV diagnosis to explain away all of their stupid life decisions, like Miley Cyrus, who recently described herself as "kind of bipolar in my acting choices because I just want to do a little bit of everything. One day I'm telling my mom, you know, I want to do an action movie and then I want to be doing comedy and then all different types of things. I get a little bored so hopefully I'll get a chance to do a little bit of everything." That's totally bipolar, you guys! Intense mania followed by a harrowing depressive comedown is super equivalent to trying to figure out if you want to star in Hannah Montana Causes Hilarity At The Zoo or Hannah Montana: Fall Of The Ninja Space Robots, you know?

It's one thing when celebrities like Emma Thompson step forward to speak out about their personal battles with depression, providing an honest and straightforward account of their struggles in order to help de-stigmatize mental illness to the public, but it's quite another when someone like Moby decides to wear an autism spectrum disorder as some kind of charming quirk that will make him seem "more interesting" to others.

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Your brain is not Sephora. You don't get to walk in and pick a bunch of "trendy" shit to throw on in order to make yourself look better. And you don't get to accessorize with the "hip" disorder of the day just to make yourself seem "weird" and "fascinating" to your stupid friends. That's not how it works. And it's not fair to those of us who actually do have to deal with such diagnoses, and all the work, medication, and often times difficulties that come along with them, to act as if it's adorable or hilarious that you've declared yourself to have something that you don't. You're not helping the cause any, and you certainly aren't helping to research or de-stigmatize such things by wearing them as some kooky hipster badge of honor. Nor are you helping the public's perception of bipolar disorder by comparing it to your shitty movie options.

Later in theTimes interview, Moby notes that he "can appreciate a culture that doesn't take itself too seriously." I guess that's pretty easy to say when you can just remove serious issues from your life whenever your friends don't find them impressive anymore.

He's Sensitive About The Pancakes [NYTimes]
Miley Cyrus Interview: I'm Going To Hire An Acting Coach [Telegraph]
Emma Thompson Reveals Secret Heartache Behind Grandmother's Rape And Split From Kenneth Branagh [DailyMail]

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DISCUSSION

freddiedeboer
Freddie DeBoer

What is also not helping the cause, of course, is the rampant overdiagnoses of Aspergers and other forms of autism. It is one of the most well known aspects of developmental medicine: whatever the developmental disorder du jour is sees a skyrocketing rate of diagnosis. And not self-diagnosis, either, but rather diagnosis by legitimate, credentialed doctors and mental health practitioners.

This all becomes very touchy, as I am sure this comments section will demonstrate in short order. Whenever you have this sort of situation, you are sure to find battles involving claims to who is more serious, or whose right to talk about the individual disorder is more legitimate. This inevitably breaks down into talks about who "really" has it, but as a simple fact of developmental and psychological medicine shows— that doctors will give whatever diagnosis the patient or, even more, the parent is seeking— it's more complicated than that. People feel the need for their pain or problems to be legitimized by a medical diagnosis, but they also feel the need to compete with others about whose diagnosis is more real or disabling. The effect is to create a lot of self-righteousness of the kind that Hortense is peddling here.

The other effect is what we're now seeing with autism: what we considered technically disordered has ballooned to include whoever wants to be considered that way, which is to the practical benefit of neither the people so diagnosed nor the people whose disorder is so pronounced that it causes severe problems in their lives. I worked for a long while at a school for children with severe emotional disturbance and severe developmental disabilities, and one thing that consistently struck me as I worked with kids so deeply disabled by their autism that they couldn't speak, dress themselves or control their bathroom functions was that this was not a difference merely in degree from high-functioning autism or Aspergers, as spectrum advocates would insist, but a difference in kind. But that is now forbidden by the dogma which inevitably develops when you have prominent medical disorders, particularly those that affect children. So it doesn't surprise me that Moby thinks so little of what Aspergers means; the number of people so diagnosed is so high now that the distinction is functionally meaningless. That's unfortunate, and not at all to the benefit of people or families that are burdened by some of the negative consequences of autism, but that is the world that the autism advocacy establishment has made.

Fire away.