Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
CURE IS WORSE THAN DISEASE
There’s been a lot of advertising lately for a drug called Paxil. This product is supposed to help people who suffer from “social anxiety disorder.”
I think I’ve experienced social anxiety a few times. Once while at a cocktail party at a fancy country club, about an hour after I had last visited the men’s room, someone whispered to me that my fly was unzipped. Talk about embarrassing. When I realized the ol’ barn door had been wide open the entire time I was casually chatting with dozens of people, my face turned as red as the Valentine’s Day jockey shorts I was wearing. (Which taught me an important lesson: never let dirty laundry accumulate to the point where the only clean items left in the drawer are risqué gag gifts.) I tell people I was rejected for club membership because of discrimination against Irish-Catholics, but I think the little Cupid cartoon peeking at everyone from below my belt was also a factor.
On a different occasion I went to a party and noticed that every person in the room was someone I either owed money to, or whose phone calls I had failed to return. (In many cases the phone calls were regarding the money I owed.) Again, I felt very uncomfortable.
My episodes of social anxiety were a direct result of something dumb I had done. Apparently Paxil is designed for people who experience anxiety even when their zippers are up, when their special Valentine’s Day undies are safely hidden away at home, and when they pay their gambling debts in a timely fashion.
The ads for Paxil describe the specific symptoms of social anxiety disorder: “Those who suffer may blush, sweat, shake, or even experience a pounding heart around those they think may criticize them.”
I often experience those exact same symptoms around people I think may criticize me. It happens at the office and the criticism is almost always richly deserved. (Every once in a while the latest departmental disaster is actually not my fault, but the boss still barks at me from force of habit.) I assume the criticism referred to in the Paxil ad is unwarranted. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have an anxiety attack when no one’s mad at me—mostly, though, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have no one mad at me.
Providing relief to people who suffer from social anxiety disorder is a noble goal (and I’m sure the pharmaceutical company is motivated by pure altruism rather than a quest for profits), but have you noticed the potential side effects of Paxil? Of course you haven’t. On TV, the announcer mumbles the side effects quickly during the last two seconds of the commercial. And in the magazine ad, the side effects are printed at the bottom of the page in type so small an ant would have to wear reading glasses to see it clearly.
Since I don’t know any ants personally—with or without reading glasses—I used a microscope instead. And this is what was listed as the potential side effects of Paxil: “Decreased appetite, dry mouth, sweating, nausea, constipation, sexual side effects in men and women, yawn, tremor, or sleepiness.”
Maybe I’m missing something, but does a drug that makes people feel better by making them feel worse seem like a breakthrough discovery to you?
What lousy options. Which would you rather have, blushing or dry mouth? Shaking or nausea? Palpitations or constipation? Sweating or sweating? Fear of being criticized or sexual side effects? (And isn’t that a rather vague description? Before you pop one of those pills wouldn’t you like to know exactly what sexual side effects they’re talking about? You might be facing a whole new “fear of criticism” scenario.)
Many years ago I handled socially anxious situations with a special form of chemical treatment: two shots of Jack Daniels and a six pack of Budweiser. My fear of being criticized instantly evaporated—as did a lot of other things, such as sound judgment and my paycheck.
As with Paxil, there were certain side effects with the Jack & Bud method: sweating, nausea, foul mouth, yawn, sleepiness, forgetfulness (especially regarding zippers), thinking that two pairs beats three-of-a-kind (which contributed greatly to my gambling losses), and sexual side effects—specifically, that my behavior caused women to turn and run.
Any product that treats emotional pain by giving you a huge dose of physical pain probably needs a little more fine-tuning. Maybe the drug company should take the money spent on advertising and put it into more research.
Either that or help me pay off my gambling debts.
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