When women  complain of pain and/or illness we are less likely to be taken seriously than when men do. Besides the ever-ready brushoff that any physical or psychological symptoms are readily explained by “hormones,” there has been a long history of believing that women are more easily subject to psychosomatic illness.

Consequently, many illnesses have been slow to gain medical attention, especially those whose victims are mostly women. Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, and even multiple sclerosis were once thought to be forms of “somatization disorder,” the term, denoting “it’s in your head,” that replaced hysteria.

Sigmund Freud’s first patients were all believed to be suffering from what he called “hysteria”—psychological troubles that appear in the form of physical illness. The word hysteria…

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