DSM-5 Places Vulnerable Women in Chemical Straitjackets

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)*

women and madnessThe 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).

Labelling discontent

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.

Read full article…



* ‘The Madness of Women: Myth and Experience

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



Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.


  1. I was prescribed xanax when I told my doctor about increasing feelings of worry and anxiety. I was 44. He diagnosed me with anxiety disorder, prescribed the pills, and sent me on my way. I hated how they made me feel, and if I was taking one, the anxiety just came roaring back. I was recommended to a naturopathic doctor who helped me understand my anxiety through the eyes of hormonal imbalance, which I was definitely in the midst of. Taking steps to right my balance helped immensely with the anxiety — way more than xanax every did. Plus, I did it through diet/exercise — no pills. This article does a good job explaining the menopause connection with anxiety — no, it’s not just all “in your head”! http://www.womentowomen.com/understandyourbody/symptoms/anxiety.aspx

  2. Hello, Jacqueline – am so delighted you posted here. Appreciate your sharing your positive and eye-opening experience. Isn’t it nice to be in control of your body again.
    Please come and share your wisdom at any time.

    Hormonally yours,


  3. I took Prozac for 12 years and Valium occasionally since I was teenager… I was suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression. Now, close to menopause, I can say that I have completely recovered – and not because of medication. I started searching for information all by myself because doctors couldn’t help me. With a diet (ketogenic diet) and self-help guides I have managed to find the way to keep my panic attacks and anxiety away already for several years now. I can say that I’m a completely different person! So, I’m pretty pissed because of the over-medicalization which really is not the best option…

  4. Thank you for your comment. Over-medicalization and over-medication is not the best option. I agree.
    And yet we somehow consent – without even being informed. It is one thing to point fingers at the industry.
    It is another all together to point fingers at ourselves for buying into it.
    All the more reason to be healthy.

    Hormone regards,


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