23. THE "NEUROTIC WOMAN" SYNDROME
America's women are a prime target of the nation's major drug companies,
intent on making a profit by peddling mood-altering drugs for problems
as diverse and vague as loneliness, psychic tension, and marital anxiety.
And the male-dominated medical profession responds by writing more
than twice as many prescriptions for women as for men. And it's not
just because more women go to doctors than men.
The Family Practice Clinic, at the University of Western Ontario, looked
into the question of how doctors treat the same symptoms when they are
presented by men and women.
They found that when a man is complaining of depression he is usually
given a physical examination; a woman complaining of depression is more
likely to be given a pat on the head and a prescription to boost her
Another survey, of Los Angeles physicians on the use of Librium, showed
that most would prescribe Librium for a middle-aged housewife with marital
problems while only about half would condone it for a college student
suffering from high anxiety.
So strongly is the image of the neurotic woman ingrained in the male
medical mind that even when scientific evidence clearly implicates organic
origin, doctors are still inclined to diagnose the problem as psychosomatic.
While research now suggests that headache and irritability associated
with menstruation are caused by vascular changes and nausea during pregnancy
comes from hormonal changes, many gynecology textbooks still represent
these conditions as being caused or aggravated by psychological factors.
Not surprisingly, the National Institute for Drug Abuse reports that
between one and two million women are addicted to mood altering drugs
that are prescribed them by their physicians.
The lack of media exposure given this issue qualifies this story for
nomination as one of the "best censored" stories of 1980.
The Progressive, December 1980, "The 'neurotic woman' syndrome:
How drug companies feed the fantasies of the male medical establishment,"
by Tona Kiefer.