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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

Julie Holland, a psychiatrist in New York, gives an easy to read and an easy to comprehend guide to women’s health – mental and physical – in her book Moody Bitches. This book had been on my Amazon Wishlist for months before I finally got the chance to begin reading it in the summers, and finish it now. Holland provides a myriad of information on different aspects of women’s health – emotions, hormones, perimenopause – and the effects of hormone levels during different phases of a woman’s life – dating, mating, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood. As a biology major, most of what she was saying didn’t come as a surprise, however, she connected many dots that I would have never connected in a classroom – and applied it to daily life in a humorous way.  

I learned several things throughout this book, and while I’m going to try and give a brief overview of some concepts – and excluding stuff on motherhood and pregnancy and perimenopause, as I’m assuming these are topics that we won’t be acquainted with for a while – true justice to these topics is only given by the book (and some additional reading, as even Holland glosses over some things that could be delved into further).

1.  You are entitled to your emotions.

Holland begins the book by talking about how emotions can be advantageous, such as anxiety. Historically women have had to protect their young – and an increased anxiety gives an increased sense of the environment, thereby allowing the female to be more vigilant and to be able to protect her young better. It’s still advantageous now, as it helps you become more detail-oriented and focused when you really need to be.

2. It’s better to go to the root of what’s causing emotional outbreaks.

Don’t blunt emotions by taking antidepressants. Your emotional outbursts are valid and are likely caused by some disturbance in your life. If you blunt your emotions, you won’t actually get rid of the problem at hand, instead, just ignore it. This being said, there are some patients, as Holland says, that really need SSRIs and other antidepressants, as they cannot function without.

3. Women get misdiagnosed with different diseases because their symptoms aren’t taken as seriously as male symptoms.

Often, women are given antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications instead of their cases being looked into thoroughly. The stigma remains that women overreact about their symptoms, and if a man comes into the same office presenting with the same symptoms, he will be taken more seriously. Holland cites a case of ovarian cancer being treated as fibromyalgia, thus allowing the cancer to progress.

4. If you want to get over your chocolate addiction, try eating bananas.

Both chocolate and bananas contain tryptophan, which is a chemical that is later used by the body to synthesize serotonin. The production of serotonin explains the addictive value of chocolate, and to make up for the loss when you quit, try eating bananas, which are also naturally high in tryptophan.

5. Cads versus Dads.

Holland has a phenomenon that she terms as Cads versus Dads. During ovulation (the middle of your menstrual cycle) and your fertility period (around six days around ovulation), you go for men who are more like Cads – guys with high testosterone levels and great genetics. Think of jocks, bad boys in leather jackets. Guys who might not stick around ten years down the line. However, when you go towards the progesterone dominant phase of your cycle (following ovulation until you menstruate), you will be more inclined towards Dads, i.e. guys who will stay to take care of your young. And then the cycle repeats.

6. Birth control has a way of messing with the type of guys you will be attracted to.

Going off of the Cads vs Dads phenomenon – which is entirely based off of hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone – birth control makes you more attracted towards Dads at all times of the month rather than Cads. Since birth control plateaus your estrogen and progesterone levels to the point that your system thinks it already ovulated, your brain will try and find a guy who is going to stick around. According to Holland, women who go off the pill tend to find themselves stuck in a relationship with a guy that they think of more as a brother than a lover.

7. Pheromones are a thing in humans too.

“Follow your nose to marital bliss,” is something Holland mentioned. She cited a study done with smelly shirts, where women would smell shirts worn by men for three days straight and pick a guy based off of that. These shirts are laced with pheromones. Oddly enough, the people who picked their partner this way were actually happier than most couples. Who knew?

8. SSRIs will mess with the way that you’re attracted to people.

SSRIs will increase serotonin levels to an unnatural high – thereby decreasing dopamine levels. When dopamine levels drop, you become less obsessive, and there is a chance that you will become less obsessed with the person that you are attracted to.

9. How to keep someone as a friend with benefits.

While not explicitly stating this – Holland talks about casual sex. She states that an orgasm will lead to a production of oxytocin, which will induce pair bonding. If you cuddle with the person, or remain in any skin to skin contact – you will release even more, thereby starting to develop feelings for the person that you just thought of as a casual person.

10. Humans are not naturally monogamous – but we are happier when we have a single partner.

There are only a few truly monogamous creatures, and humans aren’t one of them. She describes monogamy in the animal kingdom through height differences, and as long as men and women have a net height difference, there will be a lack of monogamy.

11. Do more of what makes you happy.

Doing more of what makes you happy will decrease how reactive you are when you get stressed out. This means that you will experience less of an increased heart rate – and less constriction of blood vessels (all the normal responses in a stress response). Also, you will be able to recover from the stressful event more easily.

12. Your body has natural cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are molecules that have similar effects in your body as cannabis (and, of course, cannabis is a cannabinoid). The body produces these in a stress response, to negative feedback on the stress response and lead to a state of relaxation. The levels of cannabinoids in your body also fluctuate during the menstrual cycle – higher during ovulation and lower during menstruation. Holland says that it is partly due to why we feel so good when we are ovulating.

13. We become more social when we’re stressed out.

Isolation in itself is a stressor. Becoming more social actually reduces your stress response and thus you will be drawn to it more. She talks about how when patients are going through stressful health issues like cancer, they tend to rely more on a social network as a support group than they ever had before.

14. Junk food is as addictive as hard drugs.

Holland cites two things here which I found fascinating. She talks about an experiment where they gave rats Oreos and another set of rats cocaine. The rats on Oreos had higher dopamine levels than those on cocaine – and thus produced a higher addictive index. Oreos are actually more addictive than cocaine. Then she goes into how when we try to get off of junk food, we actually start to exhibit the same neurological patterns as someone in opioid withdrawal.

This book gives women a way to understand their health issues and moods in a way that is easy to read. A person without a background in science would be able to understand what is going on and would be able to make better sense of the mood changes that they are going to. What’s more, it’s a book that applies to women of a wide range of ages – from late teens to forties. I definitely learned a lot about what’s to come.

 

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Alizah Ali is a senior at BU. She's working on her biology-premed degree, which finds her often in the quietest parts of the library. She loves coffee and bunnies and running whenever the Boston weather lets her. She's a big advocate for mental health destigmatization and awareness. Follow her on instagram @lizza0419
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