Q&A with Julie Holland

The further we get from what’s natural for us as primates, the sicker we become.

By Jennifer Bleyer, published on March 9, 2015 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Hormonal shifts are closely scrutinized in psychiatrist Julie Holland’s new book, 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. These natural fluctuations, she argues, enable women to seek balance and accurately gauge the influence of other people on their lives. 

Why is it adaptive for women to be emotionally sensitive?

To protect ourselves and those in our charge. We may be smaller and weaker than our mate, but we can sense when things are going to get ugly, when he will abandon us, or when we or our children are in danger. Sensitivity is our best protection.

You write about the “wisdom of hormones.” How is this wisdom evident?

Hormones help us to select and mate with the best possible genetic donors. Estrogen allows us to be alluring and accommodating when we’re fertile, but when levels plummet during the premenstrual phase, it’s a time to reassess and potentially kick to the curb someone who is not really meeting our needs.

But the experience is not always pleasant.

Anger, sadness, and irritation may be unpleasant, but they’re necessary to improve our environment and status. We should get uncomfortable when we’re taken advantage of, abandoned, or manipulated, so we can correct the situation. If you don’t see dirt anywhere, you won’t clean house.

Why don’t some women see the dirt?

Because since the ’90s, more and more women are taking psych meds to become stable and less sensitive. Sometimes medicine is the best answer, but not always, or not for decades on end. These medicines are not benign. They have very real consequences.

What should women do instead?

There are a lot of natural things you can do to make yourself feel better: Change your diet, get more sleep, or do cardio, preferably outside in the sunshine. The further we get from what’s natural for us as primates, the sicker we become.