Author Topic: Book Review: Women and illness through history to the present  (Read 243 times)


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This is a fascinating article from The Guardian that looks at how women with a variety of illnesses have been treated over the years by the medical profession and society, from the perspective of a variety of writers throughout history. 

It clearly shows that womens pain and illness is still not treated as seriously as it should be. 

I am one of those with a 'hysteria' diagnosis somewhere in my hospital notes. Sometime back in the 90s, I was found by my then boyfriend, unrousable on the sofa. He phoned an ambulance and I eventually came round later that day in hospital. This was before I had been diagnosed with EDS and was supposedly a fit woman in my mid 20s. But I knew that I had been pushing myself to my limits and the dislocations were getting unmanageable. I think my body just shut down. 
Anyway, after lots of neurological tests and a fortnight in hospital getting nowhere I discharged myself and was given the diagnosis of 'hysteria'. 
I was only allowed home on the basis that I agreed to see a psychologist. I went along to my first appointment and he said there was nothing wrong with me other than maybe a bit of stress which he would expect with someone with my job. We met for two further sessions for stress tips and then he signed me off. He said there was no way I met the criteria for 'hysteria' and that he hated that definition. I'm still angry about it over 25 years later.

Rant over.

Sunny Clouds

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Someone I know really put her finger on an overlapping issue a little while back...

I mentioned how when I was going through menopause, I made a number of suicide attempts at the time of the month.  I said how a GP had referred me to a gynaecologist for HRT and the gynaecologist had written back saying I had a 'serious mental illness'.  The GP had looked weary.  "Well, we knew that," he said "But that wasn't why I referred you."

The comment made by the person I'm thinking off, with as weary a sigh as that of the GP, was "Yes, you're not allowed to have more than one condition, are you?"

I think it says so much that certain diagnoses are used for male and female patients that are deemed to be a pain.  For women, the 'dustbin diagnosis' is borderline personality disorder.  For men, it's antisocial personality disorder.

I'd characterise it as "Stuff how much distress they're in, they're a nuisance and I haven't the resources to deal with them."
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)