Posted at 5:00 AM May 12, 2009
By Kathleen Willcox
Members of the "delicate" sex have been given the kind of rough and tumble treatment by the medical profession one would expect at the seediest and most vile S&M clubs - and only if they'd been very, very naughty indeed.
Until (very) recently, women were regarded as categorically inferior to men - intellectually, spiritually, morally, physically and emotionally. And many less-evolved members of the male gender still seem to subscribe to the antiquated notion that women need to be taken care of and told what to do "for their own good." But doctors and psychiatrists are supposed to represent the arc of human progress - from the barbaric to the, well, humane - so why are women still being treated like second-class, emotionally stunted, mentally challenged citizens upon whom a variety of psycho-sexual experiments can and should carried out (for their own good of course)?
Probably because women have proven to be greedy Big Pharma's little piggy bank. Through brilliant marketing ploys that play to our insecurities and fears, they've hit pay dirt, and our only weapon is awareness. So next time you see an ad featuring pretty, happy women touting the latest "solution" to your "ills" in the form of a shiny new pill, think twice before asking your MD about it (chances are they'll be more than happy to whip out the prescription pad - more on that below).
Below, a round-up of the most distressing (OMG, I'm totally freaking out, quick doc, I need a Valium 'scrip!) examples of the medical industry's most heinous crimes against women.
This treatment's a blast from the past and definitely more of a boon than a bane in the end, but letting it go unmentioned would be a total buzz-kill (ba doom boom ch!) In Ye Olde Victorian Days, in the best case scenarios, doctors used to treat a variety of "hysterical," "neurotic" or "neurasthenic" disorders in women by, er, manually aiding them to orgasmic release. (Worst case scenarios: a clitoridectomy, which as the theory went - and still goes in some parts of the world - literally cutting a woman off from her sexuality is the best way to help her manage her oh-so-wildly-fraught emotions and uncontrollable sexuality). Then along came the vibrator in 1880, making the "treatment" faster, easier and cleaner and doctors found patients "came" to them much more frequently for treatment. Until mags like Needlecraft and Woman's Home Companion started posting ads for them and women took matters into their own hands, making the process of relieving the crazies yet even faster, easier ... and infinitely more enjoyable.
9. Feeling Blue, Little Girl?
About twice as many women as men experience depression, according to dozens of respected studies. Our hormones, society, biology and culture are all blamed. The panacea? Why, drugs, silly! The problem? Every five to 10 years, the industry comes out with a new neurotransmitter-linked "solution" for depression. Right now, it's SSRIs, which boost serotonin levels - Prozac, Paxil, etc. - but fairly recently, Tforanil and Elevil were all the rage, when scientists believed that fiddling with norepinephrine levels fixed depression. The fact is, researchers have yet to definitely prove which neurotransmitter directly affects depression. While countless women have been helped by these drugs (I know many of them), countless others have suffered from side effects ranging from serious weight gain to the total annihilation of their sex drive to homicidal/suicidal thoughts, even actions. And while talk therapy is considered to be totally 1950s, instead of mindlessly hopping from one trendy pill to the next, perhaps doctors should examine the roots of the depression first, then decide whether it's time for a chemical intervention.
8. Postpartum Depression
For Big Pharma, there's no depression like postpartum depression. Women who have just spent the past nine months carrying a living, nutrient-absorbing, energy-sapping new life around are understandably riding an emotional roller coaster for the first few months after giving birth. In most cases, what post-pregnancy moms are going through - the crying jags, the inexplicable moments of unadulterated joy, the listlessness, the irritability, the insane surges of energy - are all completely natural. But Big Pharma sniffed out a huge money-making opportunity and has turned normal mood swings into a psychological disorder that can and should be magically fixed. Now I'm not trying to get all Tom Cruise on the subject of PPD - because I believe that when it's real, it should be treated. But it seems like it's being over-treated in the States - PPD rates in the U.S. occur at a rate of between 10 and 20% -- but in many other countries, the rate is as low as 1%, according to a host of studies on the subject. In Congress right now, the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act is being pushed; in a recent speech, Bobby Rush, D., Ill., said that "60 to 80 percent of new mothers experience symptoms of postpartum depression while the more serious condition, postpartum psychosis, affects up to 20 percent of women who have recently given birth." I don't know where Rush is finding his stats - perhaps the lobbyists from Big Pharma helped him with his research.
7. Women's Sexuality
It's no secret that for some women, hunting down the big O can be as daunting as launching a search for pink unicorns on Mars. Viagra has been widely available for men since 1998 and there's no end to the supply of mind and mood-altering drugs for women, so what's the big holdup? With about 43% of women suffering some form of sexual dysfunction, compared with 31% of men, according to a study from the University of Chicago, one would think drug companies would be cackling with glee at the prospect of tapping the desperate market. But -
surprise! - one would be wrong. As it turns out, women are "complicated" and our inability to orgasm has been widely blamed on psychological factors, which brings us back to better living through chemistry. Of course the most popular meds, including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, have been linked to lower libidos in anywhere between 30% to 70% of patients. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, sometimes it is the disease and sometimes it's both.
6. Hormone Replacement Therapy
Anyone who has a mom, aunt or grandmother who's gone through menopause knows it's a bitch, and the symptoms -- the hot flashes, the metabolism slowdown, the drop in libido, the unwanted chin hair, and yes, the witchy outbursts - make everyone around the menopausal lady suffer right along with her. So hormone replacement therapy, in theory, sounds like a dream come true. But if mom takes the wrong kind, it can turn into a nightmare - Big Pharma's synthetic version has been shown to increase risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease. But bioidentical hormone replacement therapy shows promise. It mimics the molecular structures of hormones your body naturally produces, and it's derived from soybeans and yams - instead of horse urine, from which synthetics are typically made. For more info, check out this semi-recent piece from O Magazine. Make sure your mom reads it too.