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The Clinical Clash over Social Phobia: The Americanization of French Experiences?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 July 2016

Stephanie Lloyd
Social Studies of Medicine, 3647 Peel, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 1X1 Canada E-mail:
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While social phobia is a well-known disorder in North America, it has been little known among the general French population. For several years now a small group of French clinicians and members of a social phobia support group have begun fighting for its recognition. Their voices have had a significant impact, and today information about the disorder has reached thousands or even millions of French citizens. The introduction of social phobia in France involves more than the acceptance of this one condition. Social phobia is a part of a standard North American diagnostic system that remains marginal in France; this therapeutic framework must be adopted in order for social phobia to be accepted. This article focuses on the words of French physicians, many of whom reject social phobia as a diagnosis, and a smaller number who are desperate for its acceptance. Through their words, I trace the multiple factors that are slowing the acceptance of social phobia, but not preventing it. Culture, history, economy and single-minded careerism are among the factors that clinicians link to the appearance of social phobia in France. In conclusion, I consider the argument that social phobia in France is an example of the global exportation of North American conceptions of mental health and mental disorder.

London School of Economics and Political Science

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