According to a New York-based psychiatrist, at least one of every four women in America is now on psychiatric medication, as opposed to one of every seven men. Dr. Julie Holland says this is nothing less than “insane.”
Holland’s recent op-ed in the New York Times titled “Medicating Women’s Feelings” was the most emailed article on the Times’ website over the last weekend of February. It began with the statement below:
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.
Holland warns that while these feminine qualities are “rooted in biology” and “not intended to mesh with any kind of pro- or anti-feminist ideology,” they nevertheless 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.
While Holland acknowledges that some individuals need medications, she posits that drug companies often play especially on women’s fears of their feelings, hitting them not only with continual ads for antidepressants and antianxiety medications, but now, too, even stronger antipsychotic medications – such as leading seller Abilify – which they suggest can be added to antidepressants that need “help” to work.
According to Holland, “women are nearly twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorder than men are.” Her concern is that the uptick in prescriptions for psychiatric medications is “creating a new normal, encouraging more women to seek chemical assistance.”
Additionally, doctors, she reports, are more likely to prescribe women – especially those between the ages of 35 and 64 – psychiatric medications over men. Women on the cusp of menopause, for example, who report crying more often are frequently given antidepressants, when the underlying cause of the tears could be any number of feelings other than sadness, including fear of a new situation, frustration, and feeling deeply moved by a profound experience – issues that could be resolved in ways that teach women to use and understand their emotions, rather than repress or mask them.
“And some women cry more easily than others. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or out of control,” writes Holland, explaining further that some psychiatric drugs can actually cause someone to stop crying completely, and lead to a sense of apathy or indifference. While the absence of crying may be experienced as a positive result in the short term, she warns that being cut off from one’s feelings can prevent a woman from intuitively sensing a danger or a situation in which she is being wronged, or it can promote a sense of complacency. Emotions can become “synthetic,” a state that can wreak havoc on intimate relationships with husbands, children, and close family and friends.
Though she wants to avoid getting political about the causes of this “insanity,” Holland nevertheless spells out that psychiatric medications are biochemically causing women to be cut off from their emotional sensitivities, leading to what appears to be a preferred “more masculine, static hormonal balance.”
“This emotional blunting encourages women to take on behaviors that are typically approved by men: appearing to be invulnerable, for instance, a stance that might help women move up in male-dominated businesses,” Holland writes.
Women have learned that their normal feelings of sadness and anxiety – while they may be uncomfortable – are symptoms of pathology.
“We need to … appreciate them as a healthy, adaptive part of our biology,” she states.