For the majority of history, men ruled the medical field in both how diagnosis were made, what qualified as illnesses, and how conditions were treated. And because of this, and a lack of understanding towards women’s health issues, there have been an outstanding number of sexist diseases created, that weren’t really even diseases. Here are three of the most sexist diseases in history.
Homosexuality was a mental health diagnosis until 1973 when it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Yet in 1980 when the DSM-III was released, it was replaced by Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality. This mental health condition was specified for people who were in conflict regarding their sexual preference. As the gay and lesbian support and recognition grew stronger through the 80s, the diagnosis was eliminated in 1986. And finally, you could love and be attracted to someone of the same sex without being labeled “mentally ill.”
Hysteria was a common condition diagnosed through the 19th and early 20th centuries that was solely a woman’s disease. The symptoms were vast and inconclusive. Some of the most common included:
– Excessive vaginal lubrication
– Muscle spasms
– Sexual desire
– Emotional outbursts
– Sexual fantasies
– Loss of appetite
So pretty much if you were a stressed out or horny woman, you’d meet the criteria to be diagnosed with hysteria.
What’s even more interesting is the treatment for hysteria, which was called “hysterical paroxysm.” A hysterical paroxysm is basic on orgasm produced by the doctor. Yep, it took a medical diagnosis, and a doctor to perform the duty, for people to realize that getting off made women feel better. But don’t think there was any hanky-panky. The doctor kept his pants on the whole time and the deed was done either by hand or with a hand held massager. Aka, a vibrator.
And while this all sounds like the mumbo jumbo of our unknowledgeable ancestors, hysteria was still diagnosed through the early 1950s and wasn’t removed from the DSM until 1980.
Insanity, as a diagnosis, was a broad term that covered all sorts of severe mental health issues. And while both men and women were diagnosed with insanity, and both were placed into institutions and asylums, there was a significant percentage more women than men. In 1851, Charles Dickens remarked that out of the 18,759 patients at St. Luke’s hospital, 11,162 were women. That’s nearly three out of every five patients who were female.
And although we’d like to think things have changed, mental health diagnoses, especially depression and anxiety, are still significantly more prevalent in women. Women receive a diagnosis of depression 20 to 40 times more often than men, although it is believed that men and women both equally suffer from the disorder.
So why the gender difference? Not only are women more likely to talk about their emotions and frustrations, but many women feel a significant amount of pressure to always be more than they are. Women are also much more likely to be victims of abuse and trauma, which often lead to a depression diagnosis.
While times have changed, there are still controversies regarding the sexist biased of some diagnoses, particularly in regards to mental health.