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Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300124460
ISBN-10: 0300124465
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Before you sell a drug, you have to sell the disease. And never was this truer than for social anxiety disorder," concludes English professor and Guggenheim fellow Lane in this scathing indictment of the American Psychiatric Association and the psychopharmacological industry. In 1980, a massive overhaul of the psychiatry bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, added a host of conditions (social phobia among them) to the roster of mental disorders, creating a boon for the pharmaceutical industry, which, in the decades since, has brought to market a cornucopia of drugs to combat an ever-increasing number of mental illnesses. Lane finds a trove of troubling (and previously unpublished) material in the APA archive and in drug company memorandums, laying bare the APA's internal politics (as fierce as academia) and showing the growing influence of drug companies on psychiatry practice. Similarly alarming are Lane's dissections of big pharma's marketing of anti-depressants and description of how information about side-effects and withdrawal symptoms associated with popular prescription drugs such as Prozac and Paxil were withheld from the public. This controversial and well-documented book will spark its share of debates.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"[A] fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the making of the bible of modern psychiatry [that] explains how a once-ordinary affliction became a profitable disease."—Michael Agger, Mother Jones
(Michael Agger Mother Jones 2007-11-01)

“This is not only an important account of the creation of a modern disease and its treatment, it is an explosive indictment of a system that is too simply materialist in both philosophy and behavior.”—Harold J. Cook, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL
(Harold J. Cook)

“A marvelous book: disturbing and perturbing, a book that will be widely talked about and debated. It is extraordinarily well written, balanced, witty, and engrossing. Bravo!”—Arthur Kleinman, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor and Chair of Anthropology, Professor of Medical Anthropology, and Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard University
(Arthur Kleinman)

“In Shyness, Christopher Lane outlines an apparatus that is one of the most powerful cultural forces in the world today. In pulling back the drapes and revealing the bumbling and hamfistedness of the new engineers of human souls, Chris Lane might help restore sanity to Oz.”—David Healy, M.D., author of Let Them Eat Prozac and The Antidepressant Era
(David Healy)

"Written with Chris Lane's brand of verve and scholarship, Shyness is a riveting book about how certain so-called illnesses are complex cultural artifacts and certain so-called doctors are casting spells called diagnoses. A smart and bracing book about shyness—not to mention a shrewd and subtle book about psychiatric classification—is long overdue; after reading Shyness it is clear that only Lane could have written it."—Adam Phillips, psychoanalyst, author of Side-Effects
(Adam Phillips)

"[An] excellent new book. . . . Shyness is a welcome contribution to psychiatric discourse."—Juliet Lapidos, New York Observer
(Juliet Lapidos New York Observer 2007-10-22)

"Lane provides a behind-the-scenes look at the haphazard, unscientific process used to revise The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. . . . [A] superb, iconoclastic cultural study."—Library Journal
(Library Journal 2007-10-15)

"This well-written book is a thoughtful examination of shyness and its relation to psychopathology. . . . I very much enjoyed reading Lane's thought-provoking book."—Brian J. Cox, New England Journal of Medicine
(Brian J. Cox New England Journal of Medicine 2008-01-31)

"Lane argues in this well-researched . . . controversial book that shyness [has been] pathologized, to the detriment, especially, of children and teenagers"—Elsa Dixler, New York Times Book Review (Paperback Row)
(Elsa Dixler New York Times Book Review 2009-01-20)

"A valuable book. . . . Lane's book is worth reading because . . . he does such an admirable job of exposing how the psychiatric profession and the pharmaceutical industry together manage to develop and popularize new 'mental diseases' and the accompanying treatments apparently designed to increase profits. . . . It is a solid book and one that is likely to remain current for several years, if not decades, to come."—Tana Dineen, Journal of Scientific Exploration
(Tana Dineen Journal of Scientific Exploration)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (September 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300124465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300124460
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,505,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Skeptics often assume that the only reason that diagnostic criteria are changed is financial: to line the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry. But there are several other important factors in play. One has to do with the whole way in which illness is conceptualized and a second has to do with the consequences of inaction. Te criteria for treating blood pressure and cholesterol were driven by the realization that even small abnormalities carry significant mortality and morbidity. When we classify an illness, we can either think of it as a "category," like strep throat or a heart attack: an illness that has clearly defined margins. Or we can think about it as a "dimension." So instead of seeing illness as a separate entity, we think of health and illnesses as lying on a spectrum, running all the way from being healthy and well, through mild degrees of just not feeling "right," to being severely ill. Reimbursement requires categorical diagnoses, even if they do not reflect clinical reality.

This second - dimensional - way of thinking is particularly useful when we are thinking about psychological issues. The world is full of people who are a little bit obsessive, or who get bad mood swings. But they are not bad enough to be called an "illness:" They are part of human variation. In fact, having some of these traits can be enormously beneficial: they have continued in the population because they have a survival advantage. If I need to have surgery, I sincerely hope that my surgeon will be mildly obsessive, rather than discovering a few weeks later that he had forgotten to do something he should have. The point then becomes one of asking, "Where do we place the bar between variation and illness?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book,should be required reading for every psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, and social worker in training, and is a must read for those already in practice. While there have been reviews that talk about Dr. Lane's ranting comentary, it is clear that some ranting is appropriate, given the lack professional overview of this important and unfortunate issue, including the danger to the unknowing public. His research is thorough and the text confronts much of the assumption (not limited to shyness) about the field, held by those who would normally bring the information to our attention. I am giving copies to the local psychological association for members to read and then hand to other members. I am appalled that an English professor, rather than a physician or psychologist, was led to write this but, after 36 years in the field, am not surprised.// Thomas McKnight, PhD., ABPP
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Format: Paperback
Add this book to my early favorites for 2009; It's an outstanding, fascinating expose of what went wrong with American psychiatry in the 1980's and 1990's. You can see exactly where the profession went off the rails and became corrupted by drug-company money--the author got access to the unpublished material that went into the third edition of its diagnostic bible, the DSM. Some of the original material is scandalous--some, flat-out hilarious. But all of it is very relevant to what's going on with psychiatry and Big Pharma these days. I had no idea so many crazy new disorders were created in the 80s and 90s, and with so little justification. A real eye-opener, and one I'm very glad to have read.
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Format: Paperback
Somewhat by coincidence I was reading this book while also reading the The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder. The theme of both books is essentially the same: that modern psychiatry has medicalized otherwise normal conditions. In the Loss of Sadness, the authors argue that normal sadness reactions to life's toils and troubles have been redefined as abnormal via the use of symptoms exclusively, without regard to context or proportionality. Similarly, Christopher Lane argues in his book that shyness and its variants have been stigmatized as conditions requiring pharmaceutical care. Lane focuses on the behind the scenes maneuvering during the process of revising psychiatry's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The main protagonist in Lane's drama is Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist who pretty much bulldozes his vision of psychiatry into the DSM. That vision is one that places psychoanalysis in the background and brings neuropsychiatry, or the primary use of drugs to deal with conditions, into the foreground. The result is the creation and inclusion of Social Phobia and Social Anxiety into the listing of conditions that require medication.

The role of the pharmaceutical industry is explored, as it takes full advantage of the identification of this new disease and brings its full force of marketing strategies into play. Lane demonstrates with actual ads how Big Pharma marketed their drugs as solutions to life's routine problems, like being shy or nervous at a party.
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