Dr. Julie Holland argues that women are designed by nature to be dynamic and sensitive — women are moody and that is a good thing. Yet millions of women are medicating away their emotions because we are out of sync with our own bodies and we are told that moodiness is a problem to be fixed. One in four women takes a psychiatric drug. If you add sleeping pills to the mix, the statistics become higher. Overprescribed medications can have far-reaching consequences for women in many areas of our lives: sex, relationships, sleep, eating, focus, balance, and aging. Dr. Holland’s newest book is titled Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy.
Dr. Julie Holland: So right now in America, one out of four women is taking some sort of a psychiatric medication. And that doesn’t include sleeping pills. This is just antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and also antipsychotics. Because we’re not getting enough sleep or enough exercise or enough sunshine, more and more of us are feeling stressed and anxious and depressed. To me criteria for a major depressive episode, you need to be depressed and down more days than not for at least two weeks. Sometimes women are down or depressed for three or four days every month. And it’s important to know that that is normal and it’s natural and it doesn’t have to necessarily be medicated away; 80 percent of prescriptions for psych meds in America are written by non-psychiatrists, by internists and family practitioners and GPs. And, you know, to really tease apart whether you have a psychiatric history, whether your family has a psychiatric history, whether you’ve ever been on these medicines before, and whether you really need these medicines or there aren’t other ways to get you to feel better, that’s a long conversation that would take an hour. And internists don’t necessarily have this much time.
An antidepressant is not a diagnostic tool. It’s not a test like if, you know, you’re not sure if you’re depressed or not, but then you take an antidepressant and you start feeling better and you’re like oh, I must have been depressed. That’s no more accurate than, you know, taking Adderall and discovering that you’re able to concentrate and focus better. That doesn’t mean that you have an attention deficit disorder. People get on these meds and it turns out that they like them. They do feel happier and more relaxed. And then they discover that there’s a price to pay for feeling happier and relaxed and their libido is dampened. It’s more difficult to climax. It’s more difficult to cry. They may not feel as connected emotionally with people. And so over time some people decide, you know, I don’t want to be medicated anymore. I don’t feel like myself. And then they discover that it’s actually hard to get off of antidepressants. I’ll give Effexor withdrawal as an example and you can Google "Effexor withdrawal" and you will see for yourself that there are kind of bizarre symptoms that people have. They will talk about feeling brain zaps, electricity that shoots from their head out their arms. I’ve had patients say they feel their brain moving around in their skull or their eyes are sort of lagging behind their vision, you know. Weird sort of neurological-sounding side effects. Unfortunately the way that health care is in America right now, I mean it is a commodity. It is a business. It affects the way that doctors and patients interact and sometimes there’s not enough time to really be thorough and have the harder conversations, you know, what did you eat for breakfast this morning? How much sleep did you get last night? Are you exercising? Sometimes it’s just easier to hand over a prescription.