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Side Effects May Include

Excerpt: Lane was troubled by what he found: evidence of drug-company influence, especially in the promotion of “panic disorder” by Pharmacia & Upjohn, maker of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. He also uncovered extensive evidence of questionable research (sometimes involving just one patient), sloppy thinking, dismissal of nonmedical approaches to psychiatric problems, and a degree of inventiveness with terms and symptoms that struck him as playing fast and loose with the facts. All of this served as the basis for Lane’s 2007 book, Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness, in which he observes that behaviors once understood as reactions to one’s environment and upbringing are increasingly seen as innate conditions of brain chemistry, resulting from problematic levels of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin. He suggests that because of the open-ended language in the DSM and the wide range of behaviors it pathologizes, anyone who is shy, as he was as a teenager, now risks being diagnosed as mentally ill. The new disorders were “obviously music to the ears of drug companies,” he says, “insofar as they massively increased the market for their products, which the media greeted with incredible enthusiasm.” Read More