Windy City Media Group Frontpage News Home
CELEBRATING 28+ YEARS OF Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender NEWS

Search Gay News Articles
Advanced Search
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2014-04-23
Download Issue
  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime

LGBTQ Senior Housing applications to open up LGBTQ Senior Housing applications to open up
Heartland Housing and the Center on Halsted are in the final months ...

Browse Gay News Index   Browse Gay News Archives
  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.

The Becker book outrage 2014-04-22
Matt Miner talks animal liberation, lesbian storyline 2014-04-22
Lesbianography: Lesbians and Sex, Out at CHM May 8 2014-04-17
BOOK REVIEW Falling into Place 2014-04-15
New Evanston independent bookstore to open in June 2014-04-15
Gerber Hart Library and Archives book sale April 26-27 2014-04-14
Chicago Humanities Fest names Alison Cuddy Program Director 2014-04-10
Comic book publishers sever Uline ties over anti-gay ads 2014-04-10
The Summer I Wasn't Me 2014-04-09
Lavender U: Balay on sexuality, gender in steel mills 2014-04-07
The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience 2014-04-01
BOOKS Man talks about being gay in the Colombian army 2014-04-01
Women & Children First plans April author events 2014-03-30
Women & Children First Bookstore hosts Jimmy Carter book signing 2014-03-27
Harry Nimmo deciphers fact from fiction in 'Before Summer' 2014-03-26
Gay Colombian soldier tells story in new book 2014-03-26
Knives and autopsies just the start in new Peggy Shinner book 2014-03-26
GLSEN, Matthew Shepard Foundation release Shepard curriculum 2014-03-20
Library commissioner talks changes, technology 2014-03-20
BOOK REVIEW Pee-Shy 2014-03-19
BOOK REVIEW The Days of Anna Madrigal 2014-03-19
BOOK REVIEW Teaching the Cat to Sit 2014-03-19
BOOK REVIEW Off the Rocks 2014-03-19
Katy Perry adds second show at United Center 2014-03-18
Women of Letters at Mayne Stage March 21 2014-03-15
CPL Commissioner Bannon at Gerber/Hart event 2014-03-14
Strub reflects on past and present AIDS activism 2014-03-13
BOOKS Jackie Collins: True 'Confessions' 2014-03-12
BOOK REVIEW Legally Wed 2014-03-12
Orchid show in Glencoe through March 16 2014-03-12
Sean Strub to make two Chicago appearances 2014-03-12
Jimmy Carter coming to Andersonville on March 27 2014-03-12
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes talks new media in Elmhurst 2014-03-12
'It Gets Better' with Tamale at Guild Complex 2014-03-09
"LGBT Writers in Schools" brings writers into classrooms 2014-03-08
Lambda book finalists announced 2014-03-06
Facebook co-founder at Elmhurst on March 6 2014-03-05
BOOK REVIEW I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples... 2014-03-04
Women & Children First bookstore March events, honor 2014-02-27
HIV/AIDS activist Sean Strub visiting March 12 2014-02-26





Copyright © 2014 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
the 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.

 

 

 



 

LGBTQ Senior Housing applications to open up
 
Body painter Barsallo delights gallery crowd
 
Lambda Legal Bon Foster benefit honors Fred Eychaner
 
PROFILE Chicago lesbian hooked on CrossFit craze
 
Drag/burlesque workshop series held at SAIC
 
Windy City Times Current DownloadNightspots Current DownloadQueercast Current Download
Windy City Media Group BlogsJoin Our Email List!Donate Now








  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime



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      News Videos      Nightspots Videos      Entertainment Videos      Queercast Videos      Comedy Videos     
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.