“Humanity, thou art sick”

“In my mother’s generation, shy people were seen as introverted and perhaps a bit awkward, but never mentally ill.”

So writes the Chicago-based research professor, Christopher Lane, in his fascinating new book Shyness: How Normal Behaviour Became a Sickness. ‘Adults admired their bashfulness, associated it with bookishness, reserve, and a yen for solitude. But shyness isn’t just shyness any more. It is a disease. It has a variety of over-wrought names, including “social anxiety” and “avoidant personality disorder”, afflictions said to trouble millions’, Lane continues.

Lane has taken shyness as a test case to show how society is being overdiagnosed and overmedicated. He has charted – in intricate detail – the route by which the psychiatric profession came to give credence to the labelling of everyday emotions as ‘disorders’, a situation that has resulted in more and more people being deemed to be mentally ill.

Humanity, thou art sick: Shyness is now ‘social phobia’, and dissent is ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’. How did everyday emotions come to be seen as illnesses?” a review by Helene Guldberg of “Shyness: How Normal Behaviour Became a Sickness,” by Christopher Lane, in spiked, December 2007

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