Bashfulness, once prized as a virtue, became a sign for medical concern. According to the 1994 National Comorbidity Survey, as much as 12.1 percent of the U.S. population might have social anxiety disorder and a staggering 28.8 percent suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder.
As a result of statistics like these and the disease criteria listed in the updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, large numbers of people swallow daily doses of Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft for conditions that many experts now consider medical problems stemming from a chemical imbalance. After examining prescription rates for these three antidepressants alone, David Healy and Graham Aldred of the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine at Britain's Cardiff University reported in the International Review of Psychiatry that just over 67.5 million Americans had taken at least one of them in the 15-year period ended in 2002. More than 18.5 million of those had received a prescription for Paxil, the first antidepressant to receive FDA approval for social anxiety disorder.