What's wrong with being shy, and just when and how did bashfulness and other ordinary human behaviors in children and adults become psychiatric disorders treatable with powerful, potentially dangerous drugs, asks a Northwestern University scholar in a new book that already is creating waves in the mental health community.
In "Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness" (Yale University Press, October 2007), Northwestern's Christopher Lane chronicles the "highly unscientific and often arbitrary way" in which widespread revisions were made to "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM), a publication known as the bible of psychiatry that is consulted daily by insurance companies, courts, prisons and schools as well as by physicians and mental health workers.
(Note to Chicago editors: Lane will launch his book with a free, public talk hosted by the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at National Lewis University, 122 S. Michigan Ave., Room 5006, Chicago.)
"The number of mental disorders the general population might exhibit leaped from 180 in 1968 to more than 350 in 1994," notes Lane, Northwestern's Herman and Beulah Pearce Miller Research Professor. In a book that calls into doubt the facade of objective research behind psychiatry's revolution, Lane questions the rationale for the changes, and whether all of them were necessary and suitably precise.
By labeling shyness and other human traits as mental conditions with a biological cause, the doors were opened wide to a pharmaceutical industry ready to provide a pill for every alleged chemical imbalance or biological problem, the author says.
Lane, who meticulously and systematically researched the archives of the American Psychiatric Association, uses social anxiety disorder (first dubbed social phobia) as the lens through which to analyze American psychiatry's extraordinary shift in the last 30 years from a psychoanal
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