Thursday, June 5, 2008

Teenage Boy Disease

When I was actually trying criminal cases, I would often have to consider whether the person I was prosecuting or defending had a mental health issue. You see, in order to do an effective direct or cross-exam, you really need to have at least a little bit of an idea what you’re talking about; just enough to make you dangerous, so to speak. As a result, I ended up becoming pretty friendly with several mental health professionals and even had occasion to crack open the 4th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Health Disorders (which, according to PsychiatryOnline website, is the “standard diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals worldwide to promote reliable research, accurate diagnosis, and thus appropriate treatment and patient care”). This book, known as the DSM-IV-TR, is the tool most psychiatrists or psychologists turn to when diagnosing patients who have a mental health problem.

All of this is a rather lengthy introduction to one of my pet theories. After a number of years’ observation and some personal testing, I have a theory that perhaps we should add a diagnosis to the DSM-IV-TR. “Teenage-Boy-Disease.” Now to suffer from “teenage boy disease” you have to be male. Now lest those of you out there make unfounded charges of sexism, I have seriously considered whether there should be a corresponding “Teenage-Girl-Disease.” Perhaps. However, that is for another post. If so, the symptoms would be different and the disease would manifest in different ways. It is also possible that the disease would manifest earlier, perhaps in a prepubescent girl’s fascination with all things equine, because (of course) girls do mature faster than boys. In my limited observations, however, teenage boys act differently to certain stimulus than do teenage girls. It’s a fact. Get used to it. Thus, “teenage-boy-disease.”

Suffers of “teenage-boy-disease” demonstrate distinct symptoms over the course of several months to several years; depending on the severity of the disease. One of the primary characteristics of the disease is the tendency toward the nocturnal. Suffers have trouble waking up in the morning, often requiring multiple alarm clocks, “nudges” to wake up, or banging of trashcan lids to actually come awake (particularly when there is a need to go to work or school), and may have difficulty falling asleep at night (particularly when there are places to go, people to see, or things to do). Suffers will, however, want to sleep during the day, often falling asleep at inopportune times, such as during class or while watching a movie, or in the middle of a discussion with a adult, unless placed in a standing or front-leaning position.

Another primary characteristic of teenage-boy-disease is an extreme fascination with electronic games of any type, often at the expense of other productive efforts (such as school or work). Suffers of teenage-boy-disease will spend hours, sometimes morphing into days or weekends, trying to win electronic sports games or kill all the alien zombies currently invading Earth. The disease is also characterized by an extreme fascination with sports of any type, things with wheels (particularly flashy cars), and violent or extremely stupid movies. For some reason, suffers of teenage-boy-disease also find it particularly hilarious to be able to quote stupid movie dialogue verbatim.

Suffers also have trouble with self-confidence; reflected in an obsession with finding the “right” acne medication, the “best” deodorant, and the “finest” pair of jeans. This lack of self-confidence may also manifest itself in a compulsive need to build muscle tone and frequent trips to a local gym. (However, this compulsion is not always bad, since it may also result in a beneficial type of informal group therapy with other suffers of teenage-boy-disease.) One symptom of the lack of self-confidence is the tendency to get tongue-tied or say stupid things around members of the opposite sex. With those suffering extreme symptoms, the sufferer may even act like a buffoon or repeatedly trip over feet that suddenly seem way too large when within three feet of a female.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist and I have never been trained in the mental health field; but I have been an officer, have led young men and women, raised three children to adulthood, and I like to watch people. Those experiences wouldn’t qualify me as an expert witness, but I like to think that they do qualify for something. In my opinion, teenage-boy-disease is real (taking my tongue somewhat out of my cheek). From what I’ve seen, young men, fresh out of high school, are often still suffering from the disease or from leftover symptoms of the disease. I think there’s a case to be made for some type of universal service requirement as a maturation step to allow recovery from teenage-boy (or girl) disease. Now, I’m not calling for a universal draft, and I’m not proposing some type of AmeriCares-type social service requirement. I’m not sure that I even have a specific proposal. I just know that of the young men and women I’ve been associated with, those that have gone through some type of maturing process, whether it was intended or not, tend to achieve their goals. That maturing process can include military service, social service, or religious service. It just seems that some type of service teaches values and helps a young person mature and lose the characteristics of teenage-whatever-disease; which is nothing more than selfishness and self-absorption. Now isn’t that a good thing and something we should think about?


aunty 2 said...


fuzzy bear said...

perfect diagnosis!!! do you think they have a relapse to this disease when they get into their 70 somethings?? just wondering

lela said...

fuzzy know you may be onto something there....maybe those who suffered from teenage-boy-disease can suffer periodic relapses. We just happen to call them "mid-life crisis" and "grumpiness." Do you think?

lelia said...


liberal army wife said...

I remember being excited when I learned that they actually did Studies that proved - teenagers internal clocks are wired to keep them up at night and sleepy in the morning. It's not JUST TV-computers and gamers.. schools are using that to persuade local school boards to let the teenagers start later. they work better that way. My sufferer of teenage boy syndrome is going to be 30. oh my.

I agree with a "National Service", for both sexes. either military, or a "service to others" such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, park service. ANYTHING to get them out of the "the world owes me a living and I'm the only important one here" syndrome.