The Dismissal of Female Clients' Reports of Medication Side Effects: A First Hand Account

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Women & Therapy


This article describes the experience of being a therapist-in-training, while being in my own therapy with a male physician. My concerns about the side effects of Halcion (triazolam), a sleeping medication, were routinely dismissed or diminished while my therapist represcribed Halcion for fourteen months. Reports of amnesia, confusion, and profound sleep loss were interpreted by him as indications that I was not adjusting properly to a recent marriage. The isolation and pain of these fourteen months are discussed, as well as the support and resources necessary to effectively confront an expert within a traditionally hierarchical doctor-client relationship. Description of my own experience is contextualized within my observations as a professional in mental health settings. Within those settings, I repeatedly witnessed female clients' concerns regarding medications brushed aside as further evidence of the client's problems. (This dismissal of female clients' concerns about medication and side effects is paralleled by dismissal of "chronic clients" and elderly clients of either gender who attempt to discuss these issues.) The central question posed is how can practitioners and consumers more effectively ensure that physicians will listen to female clients' reports of side effects without dismissal or distortion. Until this is addressed, a regulatory and public policy issue arises: Is it wise to broadly market medications with frequent and profound side effect occurences, while leaving responsibility for careful prescribing and unbiased monitoring to individual physicians?