Holy Hormones Journal: Bravo for an excellent “Opinion” piece in the New York Times by psychiatrist Julie Holland who calls out the pharmaceutical companies for using medications to suppresses women’s feelings, emotions and ultimately our voices.
As the world is descending into chaos, poverty, hunger, and decay, my comment has been over and over again “This is not the world women would have created if we had a voice.” In other worlds – what is going on around us is not our reality – it is the consequence of what happens when 50% of the word’s populations is silences through shame, violence on our bodies and psyches, inequality, unequal pay. The result? Depression? The cure? Medication which only continues the cycle of suppression.
I love this quote from Ms. Holland’s article – and by and large she is point on.
In the days leading up to menstruation, when emotional sensitivity is heightened, women may feel less insulated, more irritable or dissatisfied. I tell my patients that the thoughts and feelings that come up during this phase are genuine, and perhaps it’s best to re-evaluate what they put up with the rest of the month, when their hormone and neurotransmitter levels are more likely programmed to prompt them to be accommodating to others’ demands and needs.
My spin on what happens pre-menstruation is similar and yet somewhat different. When hormone levels decrease, and immunity becomes more compromised before menstruation, our inner self has a tendency to raise its voice – in anger, frustration or for too many women depression as we wonder and try to grasp on to this reality that for three weeks we have been able to maintain. Our inner self awakens…. and for many women this can actually be a liberating time – but for many others it can be a very self-destructive phase from whence many of us do not return. I have written extensively on this in the past – and have captured most of it in my book entitled: Understanding Your Mind, Mood, and Hormone Cycle.
As Ms. Holland states, our feelings and emotions at this time are valid. Perhaps if we understood them based on the biochemical/hormonal shifts in our bodies we might be able to trust ourselves instead of being controlled and consumed by them. Yes, hormone imbalance exacerbates the roller coaster ride of emotions – but education and understanding the changes in the phases we experience monthly instead of free-falling into the paramenstrum is a much more sane way to go instead of medication women because they are premenstrual, postpartum, menopausal – see where we are going with this?
I remember, as a young woman I was told by a doctor that the menstrual cycle is too complex for a lay woman like myself to understand. Certainly, information and education was sadly lacking in school systems – and anything we learned was mostly from our peers. And that as you know included the good, bad and ugly. I am sure that young women today are getting even less education as they are encouraged to go on synthetic hormones in IUD’s, implants, and injections as soon as they reach puberty. A 10 year old posted on my blog on Hormone Imbalance about her struggle to come off Depo Provera – the synthetic hormone injection. This is horrific.
Hi I’m 10 and I only had one Deposit [sic] shot in July of 2014 and was due again in August but lost insurance and never went back blah blah. I didn’t have my period for a while just some light bleeding but now the terrible psychological symptoms are the only thing to warn me. I just bled heavily for 5 days straight, stopped for like 1 and a half and now am bleeding heavily again. My lower abdomen hurts so bad it’s hard to walk. Getting the shot was the first and only time I’ve visited a gyno since and since I was a virgin (still am) he said I didn’t need an exam. So I don’t know if the shot is still having effects, even though it has been about 5 months. I take medicine for anxiety and an antidepressant. Any ideas?
Years ago, I created a graphic, based on what I perceived to be three distinct yet sacred phases of not only the menstrual cycle, but of the lunar cycle and the the three phases of womanhood. I entitled it Female Mystique: The Three Phases of Eve.
Be that as it may, Ms. Holland has hit the core issue – women’s feelings and emotions are not valued in this culture. And perhaps they are even feared. But with all of the other acts of suppression and violence on our body’s and minds, she has done a fabulous job at pointing the finger at the pharmaceutical companies for making profits off the suppression of our feelings.
Medicating Women’s Feelings
New York Times
February 28, 2015
WOMEN are moody. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. This is basic to our survival and that of our offspring. Some research suggests that women are often better at articulating their feelings than men because as the female brain develops, more capacity is reserved for language, memory, hearing and observing emotions in others.
These are observations rooted in biology, not intended to mesh with any kind of pro- or anti-feminist ideology. But they do have social implications. Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical.
The pharmaceutical industry plays on that fear, targeting women in a barrage of advertising on daytime talk shows and in magazines. More Americans are on psychiatric medications than ever before, and in my experience they are staying on them far longer than was ever intended. Sales of antidepressants and antianxiety meds have been booming in the past two decades, and they’ve recently been outpaced by an antipsychotic, Abilify, that is the No. 1 seller among all drugs in the United States, not just psychiatric ones.
As a psychiatrist practicing for 20 years, I must tell you, this is insane.
At least one in four women in America now takes a psychiatric medication, compared with one in seven men. Women are nearly twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorder than men are. For many women, these drugs greatly improve their lives. But for others they aren’t necessary. The increase in prescriptions for psychiatric medications, often by doctors in other specialties, is creating a new normal, encouraging more women to seek chemical assistance. Whether a woman needs these drugs should be a medical decision, not a response to peer pressure and consumerism.