Are Women Moody? Or, Is It Aunt Flow?

Why Are Women Being Treated For Mental Health Disorders They Don't have?

Woman showing her emotions.
Women should be allowed to express emotions without being seen as having a mental health problem. Photo:

A New York Times article by Dr. Julie Holland* called “Medicating Women’s Feelings” opened with the words “WOMEN are moody.” 

Just like that; complete with caps for emphasis.  SHE sounded a little moody if you ask me.  Maybe she was on her period when she wrote the article – an article in which she states getting a visit from Aunt Flow is a cause of fluctuation of moods and emotions in women that we should embrace as natural.

Making no apologies, Dr. Holland, an author and psychiatrist practicing in New York, states that women are, by evolutionary design, more emotionally aware, sensitive, and reactive than men.  She explains these are biological factors beyond our control (motherhood, menstruation are two) that can render us moody, so it is not really our fault.  It’s just how women are.

Wait.  WE are moody?  

As a woman, she included ME in the lot of all females she declared to be moody. I was not on my period when I read the article, so perhaps it was my biologically-driven-estrogen-dominant-inherently-moody self that I am not in touch with yet that took offense at being labeled. 

The fact is, I have not been moody since I (thankfully survived) transitioned from a teenager into sanity (adulthood).  But even those adolescent years of mood-shifting by the minute should not count against my gender because aren’t most teens, including boys, moody?


I continued to read the article looking for holes to poke in her outdated, misogynistic, sexist, archaic (insert more MOODY words) thinking, but something funny happened.  I began to see why she had opened with such an inflammatory talking point: she had a good one.

Women Are Being Treated for Mental Illnesses They Do Not Have

Dr. Holland’s article offered sobering statistics about how women, who may naturally experience moodiness or swings that are hormonally driven, are too quickly diagnosed as having a mental illness or disorder.

  She argues that too many mentally healthy women are being prescribed medications that have serious side effects such as bed wetting, suicide ideation, diabetes, and sudden death. 

Dr. Holland is not anti-medication; she clearly states medications can be beneficial and that many women do need and benefit from pharmaceutical treatments.  Her argument does not attack medications or women, but addresses concerns for the women who do not need medications because there isn't anything wrong with them.

Maybe my own mood was swinging away from the mysterious dark female-thinking place as I began to come around to the good doctor’s position after I read a single sentence in her article:  

"At least one in four women in America now takes a psychiatric medication, compared with one in seven men."

The first question you have to ask yourself is, do women really suffer mental health issues at such a higher rate than men?  I doubt it.  Apparently, so do drug companies who, in the lack of a real market have decided if healthy women (with billions of spending power) do not need to have their emotions leveled flat then they will convince them that they do. 

The World is Better Off With Men and Women -- Not Men and Women Being Told to Act Like Men

The gender disparity in numbers is alarming -- as wide as Mariana’s Trench is deep and certainly, if these are accurate figures, women are heading into another deep dark place, Mariana’s gender trench filled with some pretty scary stuff we have not even seen yet.


It’s bad enough we lack equality in so many important ways and now they are trying to drug us too?  Alter our species?  There is a reason women are more empathetic than men, more willing to talk,  better at handling stress, and why we live longer as a result -- because we rely on emotional intelligence in addition to pure logic and reasoning. The differences are important and fragile like any ecosystem and I'd rather not see us become an all-male-mind society.

Emotional Gendercide

So I did some checking on my own and came away with the same conclusion as Dr. Holland -- that women are being targeted and being asked to hold to a standard of ‘calm’ that simply does not apply to women as a species whole.  The rate women are being treated for the imaginary mental health condition known as ‘being female’ – a term that also disagrees with me but nonetheless seems to apply here is more than alarming, it is emotional gendercide.

Peer pressure, pressure from doctors in non-psychiatric fields, and drug companies aggressively targeting women in ads has resulted in overprescribing dangerous medications to women who don’t need to be medicated for their MOODiness.

Dr. Holland uses one of her own patient’s experiences as an example of this group think:

“I had a patient who called me from her office in tears, saying she needed to increase her antidepressant dosage because she couldn’t be seen crying at work. After dissecting why she was upset — her boss had betrayed and humiliated her in front of her staff — we decided that what was needed was calm confrontation, not more medication.”

If you have ever had someone tell you that you were a ‘B’ for standing up for yourself at work, or tell you it’s just hormones when you have a good reason to be upset about something, you will relate to the above anecdote and I recommend that you read her entire article.

Why are women's emotions thought of as weak, the species trait that needs to be altered -- why are we not treating men in mass droves with estrogen to make them more like us?

The Actual Point is Not That WOMEN Are Moody, But Rather Mood Changes Themselves Are Not a Mental Health Disorder

Dr. Holland's opening words are strong and somewhat misleading in their deeper meaning when read only as an excerpt.  I got sick at those accusatory words (accusatory, that is, if you are a woman, otherwise, men you can just move along because apparently, you are fine) and I almost did not continue reading. I am glad that I did.

She offers up valid concerns and shocking statistics I was not aware of this Big Pharma war on women.  She is right, women can be moody (so can men), however, I would have been less put off by her snippet in all caps “WOMEN are moody” if she had instead opened with “MOODY women are not crazy.”

Her point is not that ALL women are moody, only that when we are, we are not crazy people, we are not broken, we don't need fixing.

We are entitled to be sad, mad, or joyous – even all at once if we want.  Just like everyone else. Including men.  When members representative of the male species scream, shout, pout, or even cry when their favorite sports team loses a big game do we suggest they are somehow deficient and need to be medicated?  No.

Women are warriors. We can handle our emotions and we are strong. We are not deficient. 

We simply are not men.


*Julie Holland is a psychiatrist in New York and the author of “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.”  A version of her op-ed appears in print on March 1, 2015, on page SR6 of the New York edition with the headline: “Medicating Women’s Feelings.”