I took my periodic look at The Saltbox, written by my colleague in the English Department, and noticed that he his latest contribution to Bookslut is an interview with Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness (Yale UP, 2007). I think there are legitimate concerns about the overmedicalization of everyday behavior (note I’m not using the term “normal” for reasons I’ll explain in a moment).
Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield make a similar argument in The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder.
Now, one of the first principles of disability studies is a critique of the medical model, i.e one that postulates that disability is a “sickness” in need of a “cure” — this is where I think both these books are valuable. At the same time, though, by making a sharp distinction between “normal” behaviors/feelings/etc, and “disorders,” these books seem to reinforce the medical model’s classification of mentally ill individuals as an “other” distinct from the rest of humanity. What exactly is “normal” sadness anyway? Does fear of being labelled “abnormal” or “disordered” prevent individuals from seeking therapy? [related note: I’ve heard that Cherolle Brown is now alert and seems to be doing better, thank goodness!]