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Medicine for shyness: Should NHS give patients anti-depressants to help them talk to strangers?
Is this a socially constructed problem rather than a significant problem in reality.Some of us have always been shyer than others.
By David Derbyshire - Mail on Line.
Last updated at 9:48 AM on 18th April 2011
Health watchdog N.I.C.E. is to investigate whether anti-depressants shou.ld be given to those suffering acute shyness.
Health watchdog Nice is to investigate whether anti-depressants should be given to those suffering acute shyness
The NHS drugs rationing body is to investigate whether anti-depressants should be given to those suffering from acute shyness, it emerged yesterday.
The Department of Health has ordered a review into treatments available for ‘social anxiety disorder’ – a condition that leaves sufferers terrified at the prospect of public speaking, talking to strangers or even going to parties.
In extreme cases, victims suffer panic attacks, blushing and sweats in any social situation.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which is heading the review, claims that one in eight will suffer from the disorder during their lifetime.
The body has previously come under fire for advising health authorities that they should not fund drugs for a range of patients including those suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The growing use of drugs to treat extreme shyness has alarmed some experts who say pharmaceutical companies and doctors are ‘medicalising’ normal human behaviour.
|Alone - a choice or no choice = key question.|
The concept of ‘social anxiety disorder’ or ‘social phobia’ has entered mainstream medicine in the last couple of decades after the drugs industry began to promote it.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the amount of money spent on social anxiety drugs doubled, while in the last decade around £1.5billion has been spent on the condition.
Around 200 people a year who suffer from excessive blushing or sweating are given surgery on the NHS to sever the nerves which supply sweat glands on the face, hands and armpits.
Doctors and NICE recommend cognitive behavioural therapy as the most effective initial strategy to try.
Dr Joanna Moncrieff, a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at University College London, told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘Some people will find parties and public speaking more difficult than others, but it can be extremely damaging to label them with a medical disorder that needs treatment.
'Effectively that is telling people that they can’t deal with things themselves.’
NICE will look at the effectiveness of all treatments offered for social phobia on the NHS – including drugs, counselling and surgery. It will also look at the use of the anti-wrinkle jab Botox to suppress underarm sweating.
A spokesman said: ‘It’s been referred to us by the Department of Health and it is still very early days.
'This condition is already being treated by doctors on the NHS and what we will do is find out which treatments are the most effective.’
Dr Tim Kendall, consultant psychiatrist at Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust, said: ‘For people who suffer from serious anxiety disorder, it can ruin their life.
'This isn’t about common shyness, this is about a level of anxiety that can prevent people from establishing relationships.’
But Dr Louise Foxcroft, author of Hot Flushes, Cold Science, said: ‘You have to question the role of the pharmaceutical industry and the influence they hold over the medicalisation of so many behaviours and emotions which are common to us.
This is big business.’