The premise of Jane Ussher's book The Madness of Women: Myth and Experience, as summarized by reviewer Harriette Kaley, is an indictment of the practice of medicalizing normal, human reactions to suffering and a denouncement of the ways sufferers are treated. For example, feelings of sadness or anger are considered symptoms of psychiatric syndromes, such as depression or borderline personality disorder, rather than viewed as appropriate and understandable responses to life difficulties. According to Kaley, the book's author offers strong critiques of what she calls the "psy professions," suggesting that they are themselves products of the socially constructed views of gender that permit women to be seen as weak, irrational, and otherwise inferior. As Kaley points out, this is a long-standing critique with roots in feminism and can be traced back at least 40 years.
Do you agree with Ussher's argument? Has there been any improvement in "over-medicalizing" women's reactions to stressful life circumstances in the past 40 years?
By Harriette Kaley
PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(21)