Is Anyone Allergic to People?
"Imagine being allergic to people..." It's a catchy phrase. An antidepressant, Paxil, was the first medication in the U.S. to be approved to treat Social Phobia - or Social Anxiety Disorder. At the same time the American Psychiatric Association joined with other agencies to (coincidentally?) mount an advertising campaign with this theme. What is social phobia? The DSM-IV defines it this way:
One way to think of this disorder is that it is shyness taken to extremes. Someone who is painfully shy - whose shyness causes them to avoid people and interferes with their life - might be diagnosed with this disorder. Medications and psychotherapy can both be helpful for this disorder. Like many other disorders, a combination of the two is often more helpful than either alone.
But "allergic to people"? This phrase does capture the distress that persons with this disorder go through. It's not completely accurate - the anxiety is usually only associated only with "unfamiliar people" or "scrutiny by others." The public information campaign about this disorder may help people feel less stigma and get help. That would certainly be a good thing. Just don't take it too literally. Persons with this disorder are not actually "allergic to people."