Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, was recently interviewed by the Chicago Tribune. I got this courtesy of Ken Pope. Here’s how the interview ended:
Q: The diagnosis “social anxiety disorder” opened up a huge new market
for drug companies marketing SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitors). What happened?
A: Basically, as soon as SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) got
FDA approval to sell Paxil as a treatment for social anxiety
disorder … they ran a very expensive public awareness campaign. It was
the “Imagine being allergic to people” campaign. It cost them $93
million – $3 million more than Pfizer spent that year on Viagra.
As they bragged in Advertising Age, it was a way of increasing the
number of diagnoses and creating a new market. First they had to
convince people they weren’t just shy – that they had social anxiety disorder.
Q: Why would people accept that diagnosis?
A: It’s a fascinating question, and a complicated one. You have the
apparent reassurance of a scientific label. You can say, my problem
isn’t to do with me or my psychology or my upbringing.
The label is a strange distancing device. Because it means one needn’t
really think about oneself in the process. It’s really a question of my