STOP TAKING THE TABLETS; Shyness Isn't a Social Problem These Days ... It's an Illness. Are We Turning into a Nation Unable to Cope with Ordinary Struggles of Everyday Life?

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), February 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

STOP TAKING THE TABLETS; Shyness Isn't a Social Problem These Days ... It's an Illness. Are We Turning into a Nation Unable to Cope with Ordinary Struggles of Everyday Life?


Byline: JUDITH DUFFY

IT USED to be known as shyness - but now it is called social anxiety disorder.

It is the latest in a growing list of commonplace problems which can be "cured" by the right drugs.

But are the medical profession and pharmaceutical firms taking things too far?

Some doctors are now suggesting the only prescription for everyday worries should be a stiff upper lip.

And they fear the habit of labelling every problem as a medical condition and dishing out anti- depressants is leading to a nation unable to cope with life's struggles.

There is also concern that people with serious mental illnesses are being crowded out by the "worried well".

Yesterday, medics argued the case for ditching the reliance on pills

during a debate called Are We All Mentally Ill Now? held at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, a London GP, said: "In the past if you were threatened with redundancy, you got angry, joined a union and went on strike. Now you get depressed, get counselling and go on drugs.

"That undermines people's capacity to cope."

Expectations of being happy all the time are partly to blame, he claimed.

Dr Fitzpatrick said: "Life is a struggle. People lose their jobs, parents die, friends die. But it happens to everyone. There is something to be said for nurturing people's own resilience."

Americans have set the trend. Shyness is now regarded in the States as the third most common- mental health problem, after depression and alcohol abuse.

In 50 years, the number of diagnosed mental illnesses has risen from 30 to 400.

These include general anxiety disorder - being worried about things, but not quite being able to work out why.

Children who aren't top of the class in a school subject now suffer from reading disorder and maths disorder.

Even malingering is given its own entry as a disorder.

Television has been blamed for crowded waiting rooms, with "telly belly syndrome" identified last year. …

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