Women Drugged for Their Sensibility and Sensitivities

Majid Ali, M.D.

It is more difficult to be a woman than being a man. This is a personal opinion, take it or leave it. This is man’s world. Who has not heard these words? Now to the subject of women’s sensibility and sensitivities and how they are drugged for them. Consider this:

* One in four, possibly more, women in the United States takes prescribed psychiatric drugs.

* One in seven men take such drugs.

* Women are diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety disorder twice as often as men do.

* Mothers are different from fathers. Men do not deliver babies.

Below I include the text of an article on the subject published by a woman psychiatrist in The New York Times on March 1, 2015. After you read this article, please consider the following questions (which I did) and then ask if the Times’ editors should have asked the writer before publishing the article:

1. Was there a single word about nutrition included in the article cited above?

2. If not, do you think the writer-psychiatrist diligently studied the special nutritional needs of women with depression and anxiety but decided to omit the entire subject from her article?

3. Was there a single word in this article about metabolic factors that adversely affect the brain function and worsen the problems of anxiety and depression?

4. If not, do you think the writer diligently employs nutritional therapies for her patients with depression and anxiety but decided to not share her observations with her readers?

5. Was there a single word in this article about environmental brain toxins which increase the risk and deepen the suffering from anxiety and depression?

6. If not, do you think the writer-psychiatrist has taken some courses in environmental illness and actively prescribes environmental measures, but decided to omit the entire subject?

Final question: Do you think the above questions are valid or am I taking cheap shots at The New York Times?

I offer my guidelines for brain nutrients in the following two articles:

1. Daytime Brain Nutrients

2. Nighttime Brain Nutrients

So here is text of the Times’ article. Enjoy it (it is well-written. Darwin would have liked the part about the evolutionary perspective) and then consider the above six questions.

Medicating Womens’ Feelings

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.

The new, medicated normal is at odds with women’s dynamic biology; brain and body chemicals are meant to be in flux. To simplify things, think of serotonin as the “it’s all good” brain chemical. Too high and you don’t care much about anything; too low and everything seems like a problem to be fixed.

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.

The most common antidepressants, which are also used to treat anxiety, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (S.S.R.I.s) that enhance serotonin transmission. S.S.R.I.s keep things “all good.” But too good is no good. More serotonin might lengthen your short fuse and quell your fears, but it also helps to numb you, physically and emotionally. These medicines frequently leave women less interested in sex. S.S.R.I.s tend to blunt negative feelings more than they boost positive ones. On S.S.R.I.s, you probably won’t be skipping around with a grin; it’s just that you stay more rational and less emotional. Some people on S.S.R.I.s have also reported less of many other human traits: empathy, irritation, sadness, erotic dreaming, creativity, anger, expression of their feelings, mourning and worry.

Obviously, there are situations where psychiatric medications are called for. The problem is too many genuinely ill people remain untreated, mostly because of socioeconomic factors. People who don’t really need these drugs are trying to medicate a normal reaction to an unnatural set of stressors: lives without nearly enough sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement and eye contact, which is crucial to us as social primates.

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