Gender Bias in Psychiatry: A Critical Examination

Seminars and Colloquia

Gender bias in psychiatry is a complex issue that has significant implications for the
diagnosis, treatment, and overall well-being of women. To what extent can the female reproductive cycle, hormones, as well as sociocultural gender roles, exert a major influence on the development, expression, and treatment of psychiatric disorders?

This presentation examined the gender gap in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders in women throughout history, the surge in mental health issues following the Covid-19 pandemic, and future best practices, such as the emerging field of “reproductive psychiatry” currently booming in the U.S. The historical context of psychiatry is a male-dominated field, including psychiatric theories influenced by prevailing gender norms of the time. Consequently, treatment disparities were striking during the twentieth century, with electroshock therapy and forced internment being preferred methods for women. 

Diagnosis disparities still characterize these inequalities today: women are often more likely to be diagnosed with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, while men may receive diagnoses of substance use or conduct disorders. Prune Antoine presented the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of women, before introducing “reproductive psychiatry,” a new discipline that focuses on mental health during the reproductive phases in women, including pregnancy, the postpartum period, and the menopausal transition. Could this new approach lead to a revolution in psychiatric care for women?

Prune Antoine is an award-winning independent reporter, writer, and editor, currently based in Berlin. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and is represented by RCW Literary Agency, London. She has worked, among others, for Arte, France Télévisions, Le Nouvel Observateur, The Guardian, and Die Zeit. Prune is a two-time awardee of the Prix Louise Weiss du journalisme européen and the Prix Philippe Chaffanjon. She has also been shortlisted for the European Press Prize and has been the recipient of various grants (Journalismfund Europe, SCAM, etc.). Antoine's latest project is a non-fiction book about the Christiane K. infanticide case, which will include an in-depth investigation into motherhood, domestic violence, and gender discrimination within the criminal justice system. Towards the end of 2023, Antione is going to begin a Milena Jesenská Fellowship at the Institut for Human Sciences, where she will further explore the historical gender bias within psychiatry.

Misha Glenny, IWM Rector, introduced the speaker and moderated the ensuing discussion.

Slobodan Markovich, IWM Visiting Fellow, provided the commentary.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.