Doctors call for shyness drug debate

A DRUG for extreme shyness launched yesterday to help sufferers overcome their fearshould be examined by the NHS's purse- holders, doctors leaders said. Seroxat, an antidepressant for social phobia, is the third "lifestyle" drug to be licensed in the last month after Viagra and the anti-fat treatment for obesity, Xenical.

Although it has been available as a treatment for depression and obsessive -compulsive disorder for seven years, Seroxat has obtained a licence for the treatment of social anxiety disorder, a disabling condition which can leave patients too frightened of encountering others to leave their own homes.

The British Medical Association said the pressure imposed on the NHS budget by the development of new treatments and drugs made rationing inevitable. "A debate must be led by the Government and involve the public so that they know what they can and cannot get on the NHS," said Ian Bogle, the BMA chairman.

Dr Bogle said urgent guidance was needed for GPs on the prescribing of Viagra, which has been banned on the NHS since its launch last month. And he promised to "assist" Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, with measures to limit the availability of new drugs. But he ruled out a blanket ban on so-called "lifestyle" drugs.

Viagra, characterised as a "recreational" drug by Mr Dobson, had opened up discussion of men's sexual health which had ramifications on the whole family and was far from trivial. "Where do you draw the line? Is an oral contraceptive a lifestyle drug? I wouldn't want to go down that line - it's a very dangerous pathway," Dr Bogle said.

Between two and five per cent of the population are estimated to suffer from social anxiety disorder, marked by an extreme response to ordinary social situations, such as meeting people and going out. Typical symptoms are severe blushing, sweating, trembling, a thumping heart and finding it difficult or impossible, to speak. Some sufferers cannot sign a cheque because they fear the tremor in their hand will affect their signature and it will be questioned. They cannot use a public toilet because of anxiety about being overheard.

Professor David Nutt, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Bristol, said many patients did not seek help because they did not think anything could be done. In others, the condition was dismissed or trivialised by their family who believed the patient would grow out of it. One women, in her 40s, had been a prisoner in her own home for 15 years until she read that treatment was available. Professor Nutt said: "Social anxiety disorder is not shyness but a severe incapacitating mental disorder. It is common, often lifelong, under-recognised and undertreated."

Psychological treatments, and older types of anti-depressants, have been shown to be effective in relieving the symptoms. Seroxat, which has fewer side effects than other drugs, has been shown to be effective in half to two-thirds of patients in three trials of 860 sufferers in Europe and the US. It costs pounds 20 for a month's supply of Seroxat. It costs around pounds 2 for a month's supply of the older type of anti-depressants.

Professor David Baldwin, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Southampton, who co-ordinated the European trial, said two-thirds of patients would need to remain on the drug for life. "I tend to recommend psychological therapies together with drug therapy," he said.

Feared

Situations

SOCIAL Attending functions

(weddings, parties)

Conversation in a group Dating Speaking on the telephone Meeting people Eating in a restaurant

PERFORMANCE

Public speaking

Writing a cheque

Using a keyboard in

public

Playing sports

Using a public lavatory

Taking a test, eg

driving

Trying on clothes in

a shop

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable