Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-08-26
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOK REVIEW Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, by Christopher Lane
by Yasmin Nair
2007-11-28

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


Windy City Times book critic Yasmin Nair is not timid about her feelings for Shyness, by Chris Lane ( above ) . Yale University Press; 272 pgs.; $27.50.

A 2003 Pfizer advertisement for the anti-depressant Zoloft featured a downcast woman and the words, 'Is she just shy? Or is it Social Anxiety Disorder?' Below that were only four sentences about the drug's efficacy, and the standard disclaimer about side effects.

As Christopher Lane points out in his stunning and revelatory book, 'social anxiety disorder' is seen as so commonplace that there's no need to explain the symptoms. These encompass a broad array of responses once considered normal behavior. Are you nervous about public speaking? Do you blush in certain social situations? You've got social anxiety disorder. Ordinary shyness ( who isn't nervous before speaking in public? ) is now classified as a sickness.

Some of the literature on social anxiety disorder inserts the qualifying word 'excessive' in front of its supposed symptoms. Regardless, contemporary norms of social interaction leave no place for shy people. Those who are reclusive and prefer solitude are especially under suspicion. After the Unabomber and the Columbine shooters, anyone who shows signs of withdrawal from society is suspected as a potentially violent killer. Shyness no longer exists alongside social anxiety disorder, it IS social anxiety disorder.

How did shyness, a perfectly natural response to the world that can be a protective cocoon for many, become diagnosed as social anxiety disorder? What are the long-range effects of this diagnosis?

In response, Lane relates a series of histories of language and diagnosis. At the center is the behind-the-scenes battle over the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM-III, 1980 ) . Lane doesn't argue that excessive shyness might be debilitating for some, or that mental illnesses like depression don't exist. But he argues that shyness was cast as the base catalyst for a host of perceived ills, including many defined as psychotic, whose symptoms remain vague. DSM III warns that those with 'Shizoid Personality Disorder' often engage in 'excessive daydreaming.' As Lane puts it dryly, 'What constitutes an appropriate amount of daydreaming remains anyone's guess.'

DSM-III calcified social anxiety disorder as such, but not without opposition from psychoanalysts who argued against pathologizing those who did not hew to societal norms of proper behavior. Or, as one psychoanalyst wrote in a 1975 memo, '…people should not be called mentally ill because they are different or unhappy.' In contrast, psychiatrists held that reclusive behavior was abnormal and that it should be pharmacologically treated. Psychoanalysis lost the battle and was henceforth reduced to a caricature and debunked for its willingness to let patients understand the roots of their issues through a more reflective process than that allowed for by quick-fix drugs. We have since attempted to scrub ourselves clean of the unconscious.

The dependence on pharmacology has devastating physical consequences. The drug Paxil, for instance, blankets 'the nervous system so completely it prevents the brain and nervous system from distinguishing between routine stress and chronic anxiety.' In 2003, the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products, which oversees the distribution of drugs in the European Union, warned about the drug's role in the increase in 'suicide-related behavior' among young adults.

There are social and political losses as well. As Lane puts it in the most haunting sentence of the book, 'The sad consequence is a vast, perhaps unrecoverable, loss of emotional range, an impoverishment of human experience.' Political dissent is pathologized as 'a symptom of Oppositional Defiant Disorder.' I'm reminded of the Nation's first cover image after the Nov. 2000 election: Bush as Alfred E. Neuman. Instead of the icon's insouciant line, 'What, me worry?' was now a single word: 'Worry.' Anxiety can be both justified and productive.

For a book that's about the invention of a medical condition, Shyness is as riveting as a detective story. Lane writes elegantly and passionately about the need to maintain our consciousness about the maddeningly rich complexity of human emotion and thought. Without romanticizing the figure of the tormented genius, he reminds us of the costs of being mired in an excess of equilibrium. In the end, he seems hopeful about the tide shifting against the overdiagnosis of social anxiety disorder and towards a resurgence of psychoanalysis. For the sake of our lives, we can only hope that he's right.

Contact Yasmin Nair at welshzen@yahoo.com . Nair also blogs at bilerico.com .


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

BOOK REVIEW Nothing Looks Familiar 2015-09-01
National: Ashley Madison and Grindr; RentBoy; Facebook apology 2015-09-01
Writer Oliver Sacks dies at age 82 2015-08-30
Women & Children First to host Gloria Steinem talking with Roxane Gay 2015-08-28
BOOKS New book spotlights out high-school and college athletes 2015-08-26
BOOKS Angela Koenig: Lesbian Chicago novelist on works, influences 2015-08-26
Acclaimed graphic novelist speaks at Unabridged 2015-08-11
Summer reading: LGBT books 2015-08-05
BOOK REVIEW After Woodstock 2015-08-04
Upcoming: Queer graphic novelist; Iddy Id art exhibit; Kinsey Sicks 2015-08-04
BOOK REVIEW The Holy Mark: The Tragedy of a Fallen Priest 2015-08-04
MOMBIAN LGBTQ-inclusive sex-ed book for kids affirms, empowers 2015-07-29
OUTspoken! marks one year of LGBTQ storytelling 2015-07-29
BOOK REVIEW There Is Room for You 2015-07-28
Upcoming: Book Fair; Cannabis conference; marriage law seminar 2015-07-21
Author of Shirtlifter at Unabridged Books Aug. 7 2015-07-21
Upcoming: Hall & Oates; Kelly Clarkson; Black Alphabet Film; Book Fair 2015-07-14
Mark Merlis on 'JD: A Novel' 2015-07-14
Chicago Humanities Fest newsmakers, cultural commentators to include Evan Wolfson 2015-07-14
Women & Children First announces July events 2015-07-10
Angela Koenig: Chicago lesbian novelist on her works, influences 2015-07-10
Coffee table book reveals world of burlesque 2015-07-09
BOOKS Caitlin Moran: 'Britain's Lena Dunham' gets frisky 2015-07-07
BOOK REVIEW Love Changes 1.0 2015-07-01
BOOK REVIEW Course Correction 2015-07-01
BOOKS 'Crossword' a study of gay Mexican identity 2015-06-24
Barbara Gittings: Gay Pioneer 2015-06-24
Book examines the great gay riot 2015-06-24
BOOK REVIEW Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial 2015-06-24
Gerber/Hart begins new director search 2015-06-21
Biography of gay pioneer Barbara Gittings out in time for Pride 2015-06-18
Engineer Jill Tietjen on recording women's history 2015-06-16
BOOKS 'Harold and Maude,' revisited 2015-06-10
BOOK REVIEW All I Love and Know 2015-06-10
BOOK REVIEW Bettyville: A Memoir 2015-06-03
Lambda Literary winners named; Rita Mae Brown, John Waters honored 2015-06-02
Charles Blow talks marginalized people at Chicago Public Library event 2015-05-27
BOOK REVIEWS How Long Will I Cry?; Anatomy of a Girl Gang 2015-05-27
Five Worth Finding 2015-05-26
American Library Association designated June GLBT Book Month 2015-05-26
 



Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.