People have always been anxious. No one stood up one day and said, “I’ve invented a new emotion called anxiety.” There’s even a prayer going back 2,000 years, and still said today in churches, which goes like this: “Keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.”
Let’s zero in, however, on anxiety as a specific mental disorder. We mean social anxiety disorder, one of two different mental conditions to receive the fitting acronym SAD. Social anxiety, in a short time, exploded in the public consciousness. No, we’re not talking about the documented rise in everyone’s emotional distress over the last 15 years or so. Nor are we talking about the acceptance of social anxiety disorder by the psychiatric community, who stuck it in their DSM manual back in 1980. We’re talking exclusively about what happened in 1999.
In 1999, the media suddenly began talking about social anxiety, and normal people resultantly started talking about it, too. That year, the FDA had approved a new medication to treat social anxiety, called Paxil. But new medications get approved all the time without news coverage. The media really jumped on social anxiety disorder and Paxil because they were pushed to by a PR company, Cohn & Wolfe, who had been hired by the maker of Paxil, Glaxo SmithKline.