January 9, 2008

More on shyness and social phobia



I posted excerpts of a Washington Post article in November about the question of what constitutes social anxiety, and the urge to medicate away every discomfort.

The author of that article and of the book, "Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness," Christopher Lane, is interviewed on Bookslut, talking about how "neuroses" came to be called "disorders" and other aspects of modern medical treatment for psychological issues.

Here are some quotes from the interview.

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"I’d say the 'purging of subjectivity' from discussions about anxiety ended up impoverishing what we do know about anxiety, and have known for a very long time, which is that it crosses biology and perception, rather than being reducible to one or the other.

Put another way, while the effects of anxiety are obviously biological -- a racing heart, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and so on -- what triggers those effects is necessarily tied to consciousness."

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"Until 1980, the language in the DSM was very much about calling mental distress 'reactive' and situational. And, actually, this included even the psychoses, which were known then as 'paranoid reactions' and 'schizophrenic reactions.' This makes perfect sense for anxiety, as well: people may be anxious about speaking in public, but rarely or never feel so on other occasions.

Yet the word 'reaction' was deleted from all later editions of the DSM, in a way that totally changed the way we think about illness. Instead of being able to say, 'you had an anxious reaction' to a particular event, we moved almost overnight into implying, 'You have social phobia' or even, 'You are socially phobic.'

That suggests that the conflict is life-long and essentially beyond the patient's control. So whether you agree or not with the outcome, it’s definitely a serious shift in approach that needs acknowledging."

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"What concerns me most is that the alleged cure for social anxiety disorder is often a great deal worse than the disease. Honestly, what good does it do people who dislike speaking in public if they take an anti-anxiety pill such as Paxil and, as the drug maker forewarns, one of the drug's side effects is... anxiety?"

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I haven't read the book yet, but from reading the article and the interview, I'm definitely intrigued.

4 comments. Please add yours! :

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Jacki Hollywood Brown said...

This just made me think of the movie "The Bird Cage" where Nathan Lane's character takes a "PIRIN" tablet before the performance.
(aspirin with the AS removed)!

Anonymous said...

I found an interesting interview to prof Lane in www.psicolinea.it

Italian version:
http://www.psicolinea.it/i_e/christopher_lane.htm

English version:
http://www.psicolinea.it/e_s/e_christopher_lane.htm

Best.
Sandra

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for the links, Sandra. I'm looking forward to reading the interview!

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