Mar 24

“Shrinking Violets” Identified By Shy Author Joe Moran

Whether discussing embarrassment, stammering, stage fright, or reticence, Moran considers the impact of shyness on creativity and its myriad contributions to fiction, art, and music. Beautifully written, appealingly candid, and thoroughly engaging…Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, about Joe Moran’s Shrinking Violets

Christopher Lane, PhD, who’s quoted above, is a critic of the acts of pathologizing and medicalizing shyness. It’s no surprise, then, that he appreciates cultural historian Joe Moran supporting this same type of position in his new “field guide” subtitled The Secret Life of Shyness.

Moran, who comes out as a so-called “shrinking violet” himself, also names other shy individuals—including famous ones such as Charles Schulz, Agatha Christie, Morrissey, and Oliver Sacks—and tells their stories. He notes that shyness is actually relatively common and that even those who aren’t regularly shy often admit to having shyness in certain situations.

“If I had to describe being shy,” wrote Moran in his blog, “I’d say it was like coming late to a party when everyone else is about three glasses in. All human interaction, if it is to develop from small talk into meaningful conversation, draws on shared knowledge and tacit understandings. But if you’re shy, it feels like you just nipped out of the room when they handed out this information.”

Although introversion is commonly associated with shyness, they are not one and the same. On the other hand, Moran makes clear, there is often overlap. Unlike Susan Cain‘s approach to introversion in Quiet, though, Moran doesn’t do much to emphasize the benefits of shyness. Sure, it “…might have certain accidental compensations — being less susceptible to groupthink and more able to examine the habits and rituals of social life with a certain wry detachment, perhaps. Mostly it is just a pain and a burden.”

Megan Garber, The Atlantic, on additional pros and cons identified by Moran in Shrinking Violets:

The shy are frequently thoughtful and occasionally brilliant. They are often sensitive to the needs, and the gaze, of others. The problem is that they live in a world that, despite the commonality of shyness, has extremely little patience for it…The far more fashionable thing—particularly in Britain, where Shrinking Violets was initially published, and even more so in the United States—has been to treat shyness as a problem to be treated and then, if at all possible, never mentioned again. Shyness, so emotionally adjacent to shame, is often also regarded as a cause for it. Within a culture that so deeply values self-confidence—and that takes for granted that social skills are external evidence of one’s internal self-regard—shyness is seen with suspicion.

From the conclusion of book reviewer Paul Laity, The Guardian:

Shyness isn’t a pathology, even in the age of the selfie and Facebook’s ‘radical transparency’, nor can it be dismissed as an excuse for the socially lazy. On the other hand, being quiet or tongue-tied shouldn’t be confused with great depth of thought, or a flair for ‘avoiding the platitudinous’. Having set out his array of enjoyable examples from stuttering King George VI to Charlie Brown, Moran [states that]…shyness is…simply ‘part of the ineluctable oddness of being human’.

Sep 10

Psychiatry and Big Pharma: James Davies, Author of “Cracked”

Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good is by British therapist and researcher James Davies. In it he takes on psychiatry and Big Pharma.

According to the author’s literary agency, Davies set out to answer three puzzlers:

  1. Why has psychiatry become the fastest growing medical specialism in history when it still has the poorest curative success?
  2. Why are psychiatric drugs now more widely prescribed than almost any other medical drugs in history, despite their dubious efficacy?
  3. And why does psychiatry, without solid scientific justification, keep expanding the number of mental disorders it believes to exist–from 106 in 1952, to 374 today?

Cracked‘s publisher states that these questions “can be explained by one startling fact: in recent decades psychiatry has become so motivated by power that it has put the pursuit of pharmaceutical riches above its patients’ well being.”

From the author’s website, some of the ways Big Pharma has affected psychiatric care:

The charge sheet is damning: negative drug trials routinely buried; antidepressants that work no better than placebos; research regularly manipulated to produce positive results; doctors, seduced by huge pharmaceutical rewards, creating more disorders and prescribing more pills; and ethical, scientific and treatment flaws unscrupulously concealed by mass-marketing.

A relevant excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review of Cracked:

On the pharmaceutical front, Davies takes aim at Big Pharma’s tendency to ‘cherry pick’ positive clinical trial data to suit its needs. The results are drugs whose curative efficacy is questionable and which sometimes come with serious side effects (such as the ’emotional blunting’ that occurs in about half of all Prozac users). Further undermining the integrity of the psychiatric profession is the fact that many doctors, having received grants and/or speaking and consulting fees from Big Pharma companies, are essentially prescribing from within the deep pockets of their benefactors. The consequences for patients and the profession are obvious.

Others within the ranks of psychiatry who’ve been protesting the connection between their field and the pharmaceutical industry includes such notables as Irving Kirsch and David Healy. But it’s not only disgruntled psychiatrists who aren’t enthralled with the drug-related hijinks—others are catching on too.

The 2007 book Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, by Christopher Lane, revealed how a pharmaceutical company can use pathologizing towards unscrupulous ends. Lane concludes, “Before you sell a drug, you have to sell the disease. And never was this truer than for social anxiety disorder.” Paxil anyone?

Also on the topic of Paxil, Alison Bass wrote Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial, which Arnold S. Relman, M.D., from Harvard Medical School called “a richly detailed account of the disgraceful self-serving ties between drug companies and the psychiatric profession.”

A 2010 article by Tyler Woods, Ph.D., reports that 68% of members of The American Psychiatric Association’s task force writing the next (2013) edition of the DSM admit to “economic ties with drug companies.” How do you think this might affect their opinions regarding whether something belongs in the DSM as a mental disorder?

As therapists and clients become increasingly aware of the implications of pathologizing as well as the actions of Big Pharma, perhaps we can be more careful ourselves about not “buying into” the costly and misguided labeling of our problems.