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To question why certain "life choices" are granted more sympathy than others?

(52 Posts)
KilledBill Fri 29-Jul-11 11:23:50

So - this question may get some a bit riled but that is not my intention, this is genuine question which really does piss me off sometimes.

Why do we grant sympathy to certain "choices" people make, resulting in bad consequences, but others are condemned?

For example, drug abuse. The recent sad loss of Amy Winehouse has brought this back up for me....although nearly all I've seen on MN is resepectful alot of seen elsewhere is not. Basically I've seen people saying it is good that she is dead, she deserved it, it was "her own choice".

Yet I see anorexic women getting sympathy poured on them - surely it is a choice not to eat if you believe it is a choice to take drugs? Anorexics have alot of mental health help and are treated like victims, yet addicts are treated like criminals. I cant help but wonder if it is because most anorexics are young women who play nicely into the "frail damsel in distress" role that society seems to want so much - yet addicts do not.

Another one - I see on super-nanny type crap and infact in the street mothers struggling with very difficult children - sometimes these children have additional needs, sometimes not, but I have seen women abused by their own children, sometimes violently attacked.

Ive heard comments that these mothers "just aren't strict enough" or that they are bad parents, also that ADHD and autism etc dont exist it is just lazy parenting. This makes me so angry. Someone I know has to practically beat down the door to get help with her violent son, yet if it were her boyfriend slapping her round the face instead of him, she would be getting help. Infact the "services" would probably even chase her to offer help. Again - why is it viewed as deserving of sympathy if you chose to stay with a man who beats you, yet its your own bloody fault if your child who you cannot hit back or leave is abusive towards you?

manicbmc Fri 29-Jul-11 11:25:58

World gone mad! I'd love any of those people who say autism doesn't exist to spend an hour with my severely autistic 16 year old, who is very violent on occasion.

Then tell me it's a figment of my imagination.

Kladdkaka Fri 29-Jul-11 11:29:20

Because people are idiots.

yellowvan Fri 29-Jul-11 11:35:18

RE: drug abuse v. anorexia. Drug abuse often leads to criminal behaviour (stealing etc etc) whereas not eating, overexercising does not?

vegetariandumpling Fri 29-Jul-11 11:37:12

Agree Kladdkaka

bubblesincoffee Fri 29-Jul-11 11:37:49

I think the difference between drug addicts and those who suffer from eating disorders, is that one is illegal, and by it's nature hurts strangers, and society, where as the other affects only the person choosing to do it. Although both will obviously hurt the families and the people closest to the sufferer.

As for the difference between a violent child and a violent husband, you are right. The only difference is that being a victim of one is beginning to become more socially accepted, one is still a taboo.

Hammy02 Fri 29-Jul-11 11:39:41

I agree OP. Obesity, anorexia, drug use, alcoholism etc are all types of addiction/personality disorders. Yet there is a huge gulf in the sympathy that they receive.

BertyBurlington Fri 29-Jul-11 11:39:55

a lot of things are self-induced. Its normal to feel less compassion for someone who chooses to follow a particular path or indulges in particular behaviour, than for someone who has no choice and has the affliction thrust upon them

vegetariandumpling Fri 29-Jul-11 11:39:58

Also I think people want to believe they have some control over these things. I read once that women are more likely to blame a victim of rape because they want to believe that it's preventable and therefore can prevent it happening to themselves. If it's preventable, then it must be the victims fault.

Maybe people like to believe they can prevent their children having autism/being violent or getting addicted to drugs but don't worry so much about anorexia?

itisnearlysummer Fri 29-Jul-11 11:40:01

I think you are right to an extent. Some life choices are more accepted than others - I think it just depends what is in vogue at the current time.

WRT the Supernanny bit - I don't think bad parenting is a choice as such, I don't think there are many people who understand how to do it well who then do it badly by choice.

There is a difference between "very difficult children" and children with ADHD. Some children appear to behave badly because they have a SN. Some do behave badly because they are the product of poor parenting. I have seen supernanny on occasion, and whilst I do not agree with all of her methods (especially the one where I saw her trying to teach a toddler to speak correctly shock), but I haven't seen one yet where the child's difficult behaviour hasn't been corrected by an improvement in parenting techniques (even one where the child had ADHD because the parents just weren't responding to his needs appropriately. No doubt he had ADHD but their 'parenting style' had exacerbated the situation and the poor kid was getting severely punished when it wasn't his fault).

And FWIW, I don't think having a child with SN is a 'life choice' so I'm not even sure what point you're making with the life choice bit there.

I think anorexics get more sympathy than drug addicts because whenever you see the former on TV documentaries, they're always very nice middle class girls whose parents have paid for them to attend private clinics. They're very well spoken and are/were doing very well in school. The latter are usually portrayed as criminals who are lurking round every corner to destroy the fabric of our very society. Not everyone who suffers from these conditions fits these comfortable stereotypes!

Velvetunderground Fri 29-Jul-11 11:40:12

I think its a lack of understanding. Anorexia, ADHD, Autism and dyslexia are all illnesses, conditions that the person did not ask for and cant get rid off.

Smoking, Drinking and Drugs are a choice people make to use, so they did it to them self. But and it is a big but, siencist have found that some people are more addictive to thinks that others. This addition can come in any form but its is an ilness just like the above. If you have an addictive personality you are more likly to want to try destructive things. There is also the issue of learned behaviour, if your mum or dad was additive them there is more likly that you will be too, but this could just be the addictive gene at work as well.

pleasekeepcalmandcarryon Fri 29-Jul-11 11:40:31

Interesting question. I suspect the answer is something complex to do with fear and also how much people can identify with anothers 'choices'.

Most women on MN probably identify on some level with dieting/body issues. Probably only a small proportion identify with a daily need to to take drugs.

I have a child with ADHD and have had plenty of the 'you should be better parents' and 'I would never allow my child to be like that' type responses. I think one of the reasons some people respond like this is fear.

As long as they convince themselves that my child is like this because I am a bad parent then they can sleep well at night knowing it will never happen to them because they are a 'good' parent. If they consider that having children is actually a genetic lottery and even the most perfect parents can have a child that is badly behaved/has mental health problems/grows up and robs banks then they will cease to sleep so well!

Kladdkaka Fri 29-Jul-11 11:43:49

Also on the drug/eating disorder example. Some may see it that being addicted is an illness, but starting on that drug is a choice, the illness is driven by choices. Whereas there is no real choice with an eating disorder, the choices are driven by illness.

posterofagirl Fri 29-Jul-11 11:45:15

I think it's fair to say that not all kids that hit their parents have ADHD/Autism etc. I have worked in children's social care for 10 years and if you knew the reasons behind some of these kids violent outbursts you would be horrified.

While I in no way condone violence many children are trapped in horrible abusive situations they cannot leave. If you throw in the emotional conflict of your own mother who you love also being the person that hurts you most it is hardly depriving some kids lash out,

posterofagirl Fri 29-Jul-11 11:46:07

*surprising not depriving!

Hammy02 Fri 29-Jul-11 11:48:53

Surely anorexics choose to not eat? Sorry to sound blunt but am just counteracting the argument that drug addicts choose to take drugs and alcoholics choose to drink?

itisnearlysummer Fri 29-Jul-11 11:48:53

posterofagirl - exactly. Some children are the products of shockingly bad parenting.

"I've yet to meet a problem child that doesn't come with problem parents". A counselling psychologist friend of mine

itisnearlysummer Fri 29-Jul-11 11:53:22

I think you're right Hammy02. Nobody sets out to become a drug addict or anorexic. Drug addicts (usually) begin to take drugs to change their mood on a recreational level and it takes them over, anorexics (usually) start an innocent diet that gets out of control. Don't they?

bubblesincoffee Fri 29-Jul-11 12:00:38

Velvet - anorexia cannot be compared to autism! Anorexia can be treated, it can be overcome and the sufferer can go on to live a completely normal life.

Autism will never go away, there is no treatment for it, and it is a constant throughout someones life.

An anorexic may have to struggle to keep the anorexia under control, but even a person with mild autism does not have that choice!

An anorexic has exactly the same choice a drug addict or alcohoilic has. They can choose to control their illness, or they can choose to let it control them. I'm not saying that's easy to do, I know it's not, but it's still to some degree a choice that someone with autism simply does not have.

KilledBill Fri 29-Jul-11 12:03:50

Im glad many of you can see my point. I especially agree with keepcalmandcarryon I think that has alot to do with it.

Following with the eating - its the same as the underweight / overweight difference - in our society it has become acceptable to critisise those who are overweight as "lazy" yet those who are underweight as "mentally ill". Both conditions lead to health problems, both are issues around food. So why the difference in attitude?

FreudianSlipper Fri 29-Jul-11 12:07:00

super nanny is so judgemental seems to get a real kick out of humiliating parents, i loath the woman

lack of understanding, lack of empathy and also people love to judge to make themselves feel better but it is something we all do to a certain extent. people often love to claim we all are in charge of our own destiny, well i am sure all those that have become addicted to drink/drugs never set out to be that way. also upbringing shapes us some are able to move on others are not and this sets a pattern for life that no matter how hard they try they are unable to break

SiamoFottuti Fri 29-Jul-11 12:09:17

well drug addicts usually are criminals, which might explain them being treated like such. Anorexics usually only hurt themselves, which isn't always true of drug addicts or drunks.

Velvetunderground Fri 29-Jul-11 12:09:36

Anorexia is a mental illness, sometimes its a sympton of an underlying problem and can be controll be meds but the mental illness will always be there and need medication to keep it under control. It is an illness and not a choice. I class it in the same group as OCD, it can be controled but it will always be there.

I have no experiance of autism so i would not like to comment on it.

FreudianSlipper Fri 29-Jul-11 12:14:15

drug addicts are usually criminals hmm

really i do not think my nanny was and she was certainly addicted to codeine and other prescribed pain killers, many people are addicted to ad's. lots of people take recreational drugs at the weekend and have an addiction that they are not even aware of. not all addicts are sleeping under bridges shooting up this is when some addicts reach rock bottom an no one would ever choose to live such a pitiful life

SchrodingersMew Fri 29-Jul-11 12:14:52

Drug addicts choose to take the drug in the first place knowing it is very addictive.

Anorexia is normally started by simply dieting because the person has serious mental issues when it comes to the way they see their body (which I'm sure just about everyone has done at one point), but underlying mental conditions such as body dismorphia make the sufferer see themselves completely different from the way others see them. Anorexia is started by an illness and underlying conditions. Drug abuse is started by a choice.

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