Women’s Feelings: Should they be medicated?
Should a Woman’s feelings be medicated?
Having lived with my mother until the age of twenty-one and two marriages after that, I have come to the conclusion that women are moody. By evolutionary design they are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathetic to our children’s needs and intuitive of their partner’s intentions. This is basic to the survival of the human race. Women are 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 biological facts rooted in biology and not me pandering to women. But these characteristics have social implications. Women’s emotionality is a sign of health not disease: it is a source of power. And yet you are under constant pressure to restrain your emotional lives. You have been taught to apologize for your tears, to suppress your anger and to fear being called hysterical.
The pharmaceutical industry plays on that fear, targeting women in a barrage of advertising on day-time talk shows and in magazines. More people are on psychiatric medications than ever before, and in my opinion are staying on them far longer than ever intended. Sales of antidepressants and anxiety meds have been booming in the last two decades, and they have recently been outpaced by an antipsychotic, Abilify, that is the No. 1 seller among all drugs in America.
Having practiced pharmacy for over 40 years, I find this to be insane. The drug is supposed to be used only for schizophrenia.
At least one in four women 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 as men are. For a few women, these drugs may improve their lives but for most of the others they are not necessary. The increase in prescriptions for psychiatric medications, often by doctors in other specialties, is creating new normal, encouraging more women to seek chemical assistance. Whether a women needs these drugs should be a medical decision, not a response to peer pressure or some advertised image of how a woman should feel.
The new, medicated normal is at odds with a woman’s normal biology: brain and body chemicals are constantly changing. For example, think of serotonin as a “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. You should know that these are genuine thoughts and feelings that are normal, just as normal as when their hormone and neurotransmitter levels prompt them to be accommodating to the demands and needs of others during the other days of the month.
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. But too much serotonin is not always a good thing. It could lengthen your short fuse and quell your fears, but it also numbs you physically and emotionally. These medications frequently leave women less interested in sex. They tend to blunt negative feelings more than they boost positive ones. You will not be happier with an S.S.R.I but you may be more rational and less emotional. The most commonly reported side-effects are actually having less of your normal human traits: empathy, irritation, sadness, erotic dreaming, creativity, anger, expression of feelings, mourning and worry.
Obviously there are many situations of very ill people who need some of these medications to cope. But I feel there are too many people out there who do not need these drugs and are trying to medicate a normal reaction to an unnatural set of stressors: lives without nearly enough sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement and human contact which are crucial to us as social primates.
If the serotonin levels of women are constantly, artificially high, they are at risk of losing their emotional sensitivity with its natural fluctuations and becoming more like men emotionally with their more static hormone balance. This emotional blunting encourages women to take on behaviours that are typically approved by men: appearing to be invulnerable, for instance, a position that could help a woman move up in a male-dominated business. Studies with monkeys have shown that giving an S.S.R.I can augment social dominance behaviours, elevating an animal’s status in the group.
Is it really worth it? Are you going to increase your dose in order not to be seen crying at work when your boss humiliates you in front of others. You don’t need these meds or more meds; you need calmness and inner strength to be the woman you know you are.
Statistics show that doctors are more likely to give woman psychiatric medications than men, especially women between the ages of 35 and 64. For some women in that age group the symptoms of perimenopause can sound a lot like depression and tears are common. Crying isn’t just about sadness. When women are scared, frustrated, see injustice or deeply touched by a beautiful movie, they cry. And some women cry more easily than others. It does not mean that women are out of control. At high doses, S.S.R.I’s make it difficult to cry. They can also promote apathy and indifference. Change comes from the discomfort and awareness that something is wrong; you know what’s right when you feel it. When you are medicated you may never feel it because you are complacent. In my opinion that’s not getting help at all with your problem.
When we are overmedicated, our emotions become synthetic. For personal growth, for satisfying marriage and for a more peaceful world, what we need is more empathy, compassion, receptivity, emotionality and vulnerability, not less.