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Science
AM I NORMAL?
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Tuesdays 4 March - 25 March 2008, 21.00-21.30
(Repeated Wednesdays 5 March - 26 March at 16.30)

We expect health professionals to tell us if we’re 'normal' or not, but how do they decide where to draw the line between someone who’s OK and someone who isn't? Vivienne Parry investigates.

Cartoon with phrase "Are you normal? No!"

Programme 1 - Social Phobia

Are those who are merely shy and retiring being made to believe they have a mental health condition or are we failing those whose acute anxiety in social situations blights their lives?

'Social phobia' was first identified as mental health condition in 1980. Now according to some estimates, up to 1 in 8 people in the US and the UK has this chronic and enduring mental health problem.

Some believe it's the most under-recognised and under-treated mental health problem of the modern age - the cause of many people’s depression and alcohol addiction.  If you cure the underlying social phobia, they say, the associated depression is much less likely to recur.

Others, however, feel that psychiatry itself has gone just a little bit mad – re-branding ordinary shyness as a mental illness.

Is it normal to be afraid of public speaking? Or nervous about going on a date? When does not knowing what to say to someone become a mental health problem?  Vivienne Parry finds out.

Related links:

Read Producer Anna Buckley's BBC News article on the programme
BBC Health: Social anxiety disorder
Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma: Social Phobia
The Royal College of Psychiatrists: Social Phobia
Social Anxiety UK
National Phobics' Society


Listen again Listen to programme 1

Programme 2 - Dyslexia
 
If a child of four is slow to sound out C-A-T, is this normal or might they be showing early signs of dyslexia?

Psychologists have devised tests to identify infant children at risk, but are they also sweeping up 'normal' children in the screening net and labelling them unnecessarily?

Vivienne Parry speaks to geneticists, neurologists and psycholgoists to find out.

Related links:

BBC Health: Dyslexia
British Dyslexia Association
British Dyslexics
Dyslexia.com

Listen again Listen again to programme 2

Programme 3 - Maths

If you have trouble with maths but you could have a condition called dyscalculia which makes learning maths extremely difficult. It’s a sort of number blindness. 

People with dyscalculia have similar problems with numbers and arithemetic as people with dyslexia have wth letters and reading.

But while resources for dyslexics have mushroomed in recent years, the same just cannot be said for dyscalculics.

And yet there's good evidence that being bad at maths can have more of an impact on your quality of life than being poor at English.

Vivienne is screened for dyscalculia and finds out if she's just bad at maths or if she has dyscalculia.

Related links:

BBC Skillswise: Dyscalculia
Dyscalculia.org
Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience: Numeracy and Literacy Group

Listen again Listen again to programme 3

Programme 4 - Sleep

What is the right amount of sleep? Margaret Thatcher claimed that four hours a night was normal for her, while the eight hour norm most of us aspire to is based on a 19th century myth.

Is there a clear time when normal sleep becomes insomnia?

Vivienne Parry investigates how long a 'normal' night's sleep really is.

Related links:

Loughborough University: Sleep Research Centre
The Evelina Children's Hospital
The British Sleep Society
BBC Health: Insomnia
BBC Science & Nature: Sleep


Listen again Listen again to programme 4
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