Holy Hormones Journal Jane Ussher has penned a brilliant article on the myth of women and madness – enforced by psychiatry’s bible – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5). When one starts looking at the history of women and ‘madness/mental illness’ it is distressing at best. Thousands of women have disappeared over the years – locked away by husbands in mental asylums. Today, women are locked in the chemical straitjackets of their minds.
Ussher raises one question we all must consider – CAREFULLY. Are women really ‘mad’ or are we confined and forced to live in a society which enforces ‘unrealistic ideals’ of being a woman.
Our lives are even more in danger now that our endocrine systems have been so damaged by synthetic hormones, and other toxins.
Have women become an endangered species?
DSM-5 helps perpetuate the myth of women’s madness
22 May 2013, 6.37am EST
By Jane Ussher
Professor of Women’s Health Psychology
Centre for Health Research at the University of Western Sydney
Ussher is author of ‘The Madness of Women: Myth and Experience‘ (Routledge, 2011)*
The newly released edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) may be heralded as the “bible of psychiatry”, but it is not an objective scientific document outlining the truth about madness as its proponents claim. Rather, it’s a manual that has been used to propagate the misdiagnosis and maltreatment of vulnerable women.
Women are significantly more likely than men to be diagnosed with a range of psychiatric illnesses. This includes depression, anxiety, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, somatoform disorder, sleep disorders and dissociative identity or depersonalisation disorder.
Those who experience mood change once a month can be diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Women are also significantly more likely than men to be prescribed psychotropic medication known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or hospitalised for psychiatric illness.
But this doesn’t mean that women are more mad than men. They are simply more likely to be labelled as such when they express discontent or distress with everyday life. Or when they fail to live up to the unrealistic ideals of the perfect wife and mother.
These ideals change over time. In the 19th century, women were committed to mental asylums for using foul language, having sex outside of marriage, or wanting to leave their husbands. Today, we don’t lock women up for unfeminine behaviour or marital discontent. Instead, we put them in a chemical straitjacket and prescribe psychotropic medication.
This phenomenon is illustrated in a 2004 study that examined advertisements for SSRI antidepressants from 1985 to 2000. It showed a clear shift in recent years toward positioning women’s normal reactions to difficulties associated with marriage, motherhood, menstruation, or menopause, as psychiatric illnesses that warrant SSRI medication.
Emotional experiences such as “being overwhelmed with sadness”, or “never feeling happy” started to be positioned as depression or anxiety, rather than understandable reactions to life.
Nominated for the 2012 Distinguished Publication Award of the Association for Women in Psychology!
Why are women more likely to be positioned or diagnosed as mad than men?
If madness is a social construction, a gendered label, as many feminist critics would argue, how can we understand and explain women’s prolonged misery and distress? In turn, can we prevent or treat women’s distress, in a non-pathologising women centred way? The Madness of Women addresses these questions through a rigorous exploration of the myths and realities of women’s madness.
Drawing on academic and clinical experience, including case studies and in-depth interviews, as well as on the now extensive critical literature in the field of mental health, Jane Ussher presents a critical multifactorial analysis of women’s madness that both addresses the notion that madness is a myth, and yet acknowledges the reality and multiple causes of women’s distress. Topics include:
- The genealogy of women’s madness – incarceration of difficult or deviant women
- Regulation through treatment
- Deconstrucing depression, PMS and borderline personality disorder
- Madness as a reasonable response to objectification and sexual violence
- Women’s narratives of resistance