Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sicknessby Christopher Lane
Pub. Date: 10/28/2007
Publisher: Yale University Press
In the 1970s, a small group of leading psychiatrists met behind closed doors and literally rewrote the book on their profession. Revising and greatly expanding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short), they turned what had been a thin, spiral-bound handbook into a hefty tome. Almost overnight the number of diagnoses/i>/i>… See more details below
In the 1970s, a small group of leading psychiatrists met behind closed doors and literally rewrote the book on their profession. Revising and greatly expanding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short), they turned what had been a thin, spiral-bound handbook into a hefty tome. Almost overnight the number of diagnoses exploded. The result was a windfall for the pharmaceutical industry and a massive conflict of interest for psychiatry at large. This spellbinding book is the first behind-the-scenes account of what really happened and why.
With unprecedented access to the American Psychiatric Association archives and previously classified memos from drug company executives, Christopher Lane unearths the disturbing truth: with little scientific justification and sometimes hilariously improbable rationales, hundreds of conditionsamong them shynessare now defined as psychiatric disorders and considered treatable with drugs. Lane shows how long-standing disagreements within the profession set the stage for these changes, and he assesses who has gained and what’s been lost in the process of medicalizing emotions. With dry wit, he demolishes the façade of objective research behind which the revolution in psychiatry has hidden. He finds a profession riddled with backbiting and jockeying, and even more troubling, a profession increasingly beholden to its corporate sponsors.
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I found Shyness to be a very good book, authoritative and well researched, and adroitly written to boot. The frequent musings and interesting citations keep the text flowing at a good clip--no small feat given the amount of ground covered. A satisfying read for the professional, patient, and general reader.
If you believe that mental illness should not be marketed like toothpaste or tampons... If you wonder how a medication with side effects such as disinhibition, unpredictable mood swings, hostility, aggression, and suicidal ideation can be prescribed for anxiety about going to parties or fear of being criticized ... If it troubles you that the FDA has approved such medications ... If you're outraged that the companies making the medications have been allowed to remain silent about their side effects in some cases for years ... Or, if you're just looking for a support group to help you deal with your withdrawal symptoms ... ... then read this book. Christopher Lane's indictment of the psychological establishment, the pharmaceutical industry and the government regulators who neither regulate nor govern could easily be titled 'How To Pathologize Almost Everybody and Make a Billion Dollars Doing It.' The book is a bluntly honest exposé of the redefinition, expansion, and sometimes pure invention of mental illness. It is breathtaking, frightening and starkly detailed. In it the author lays bare the hubris, maneuvering and outright chicanery that accompanied the writing of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-III), psychology's comprehensive listing of anxieties, phobias, disorders and syndromes which provides the theoretical as well as the legal justification for finding something wrong with just about anybody. Not coincidentally, the book also traces the psychiatrists' hidden and not-so-hidden links to and support from the pharmaceutical industry, which today rakes in billions making and selling the drugs that treat the new found illnesses in the Manual. Robert G. Chester Author of 'Asperger's Syndrome and Psychological Type,' J. Psych Type, Dec. 06.
'Shyness' is a highly readable and important critique of how a common experience became an illness. While it is true that shyness can be crippling and disabling, is this enough to make it an illness? Does it need 'treatment' or simply support and acceptance? Of more concern is the role of the pharmaceutical companies in creating shyness as an illness. Just because it's in the DSM it doesn't have to be diagnosed and treated, in the way that the common cold, while definitely an illness, doesn't need to be diagnosed and treated. Christopher Lane has done a superb job of drawing together some diverse areas of study. From the rewriting of the DSM, to the machinations of the pharmaceutical companies, this book tells an absorbing and disturbing story. The discussion, in one of the of the later chapters, of recent literary treatment of psychiatry is a welcome bonus.
This book is getting press as an indictment of disease- mongering--and certainly it is partly that, and it does skewer the drug companies by revealing how ones like GlaxoSmithKline tried to spin the poor drug trials of Paxil, to make the drug seem more effective and less harmful than it really is. But it seems to me that the book's contribution, as an indictment of psychiatry, is also that it has the inside story on how so many of the new anxiety disorders were created in the 1980s, often against the explicit advice of those first recognizing them as common fears and behavioral traits. The fact that Christopher Lane can document those turn- around moments with such precision doubtless adds to the value of 'Shyness' as one of several new books questioning whether psychiatry went overboard in creating hundreds of new mental disorders in the 1980s, many of them very poorly defined. Check out the proposals for 'Chronic Complaint Disorder' and 'Chronic Undifferentiated Unhappiness Disorder,' reprinted in the book--they have to be seen to be believed. 'Shyness' is very well-written and well-documented--it's a significant addition to the literature on anxiety disorders and their complex relationship to ordinary fears and concerns. If these topics interest or concern you, then this book is for you. I recommend it highly.
I recommend this book highly. It documents an alarming trend in psychiatry that we all should be paying more attention to. Like any other excellent modern polemicist, Lane's research is extensive and his style artfully makes an important point!