Women, Feelings And Medication: The New York Times Article That Stirred Debate

There was plenty of talk this week in therapy sessions, and much of it about the cold, snowy weather! And, the article in Sunday's NY Times called :Medicating Women's Feelings. "Did you read that they asked?" "Yes I did, what were your thoughts?" I responded. My clients, both male and female, found it thought-provoking and an interesting read. In it, Psychiatrist Dr.Julie Holland writes:

"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."

Holland does discuss how anti-depressants clearly help some people, but she also discusses the high numbers of women who are treated with them. If you read the article you may have asked many questions including: Was the article sexist? Are women moodier, and if so, do they need to be subdued in order to be "good girls" and better behaved? Do we over or under-diagnose women's emotions and mood difficulties?

Good question! Emotions occur on a spectrum and they come and go with moment to moment, day to day, week to week shifts. Would loading a patient with cognitive strategies, support or helpful coping skills make life a bit smoother.  What role do the pharmaceutical companies play in deciding what gets treated? Are many women suffering unnecessarily, when medication could create ease and balance in their lives. Should women experience guilt and shame over their depression especially when medication helps them feel and function better?

It's not a quiz, and there likely are no absolutes here, but rather a bit of this and that. Everyone is different with varying degrees of tolerance and the ability to regulate emotions. It's important to evaluate depression carefully and with a sensitive and flexible approach. I have great faith in the elegance and effectiveness of interpersonal psychotherapy, the therapeutic relationship,  support, cognitive restructuring and increasing both depressed men and women's coping skills. Sometimes, an individual may need more help and I'm a big believer in not suffering needlessly. I am always more than happy to make a referral to a trusted psychiatrist for a medication consult.

NYC Therapist Kimberly Seelbrede, LCSW is a skilled Psychotherapist, Relationship and Stress Reduction Expert in New York City. She provides therapy, EMDR & Coaching to individuals and couples. Her expertise includes: anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, self-esteem, trauma, addictions, self-esteem, loss, transitions, crisis therapy, stress management and goal attainment. Kim Seelbrede's post-graduate training includes psychoanalytic psychotherapy, CBT, DBT Skills, EMDR, life coaching, mind-body integrative therapy with the Urban Zen Foundation and couples training with The Gottman Institute. Her private practice is located in New York City or thera-coaching and remotes sessions online via Skype.