Letter: Ill, or just shy?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The use of anti-depressants for shyness (social phobia) follows a well-worn path ("Doctors call for shyness drug debate", 9 October). Designate a distressing aspect of the human condition a disorder; find a technical-sounding name for it and a chemical that may bring relief in the short term; play down possible side-effects (in the case of Seroxat there are more than 40) and the potential for physical or psychological dependence and serious withdrawal symptoms, and the door is open for huge profits and long, busy careers for experts in an exciting new field.

One consequence of all this, incidentally, is that normality will eventually be deemed a disorder of the most intractable kind.

There are no safe, durable short cuts to mastering shyness - though mine was greatly helped by reading that Samuel Beckett rarely spoke a single word on social occasions and by coming across Penelope Keith's dictum that "shyness is egotism out of its depth".

JEREMY WALKER

London SW17

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