Light. Bulb. Moment. 6 signs you're suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

I am a strong, successful woman, why do I still feel uneasy?

I'm not enough. 

I am uncomfortable in my skin. Why can't I shake this?!

I need to try harder. Do more. Be more.

I need more peace, more happiness, more fulfillment. 

But my life is GOOD, so what the hell is wrong with me? Why do I feel stuck?

Is this an inner monologue that sounds somewhat familiar? Yep, me too. 

Hi, welcome to your Friday ah-huh moment: you might be suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD).

Watch: Dr Valerie Rein paints a picture of a woman we either are, or know. Post continues after video.

Video via Dr Valerie/Youtube.

PSD is a term coined by psychologist and women's mental health expert Dr. Valerie Rein to explain a phenomenon she noticed while treating female clients. 

She was seeing women in her clinic who didn't recall any traumatic experiences in their lives, and yet they were all showing tell-tales signs of trauma. They were disconnected from parts of their body and mind, they were struggling to become and be their authentic selves and they couldn't explain why they were always asking themselves, what's wrong with me?!?


So Dr Rein went about trying to work out what kind of trauma these women shared, without even knowing they had it. She came across research that showed that trauma was genetically transmitted, and that was her lightbulb moment.

For thousands and thousands of years, women have been oppressed. It wasn't safe for us to be fully expressed, to be in touch with our emotions, our sexuality, our brilliance. To own our own bodies, make our own money and love who we wanted to love. It was never safe, and that's really traumatic. 

So here we are, modern women living with the trauma of our ancestors. Dr Rein says that is what sits beneath the inner voice in your head that often pops up and asks, what's wrong with me? when there's nothing particularly wrong.

That trauma lives, says Dr Rein, in our nervous system, and in our subconscious. It's triggered every time we think of doing something that's historically been forbidden and dangerous for women. In some instances, it is still dangerous or seen as forbidden - and so that just adds to the trauma.

Let's unpack some of the signs you're suffering from PSD, shall we. 

1. Do you feel guilty about wanting something more? 

Historically, women have lived in a world where they've had to focus on surviving, not thriving.

It's not about 'how much can I bear' any more, it's about 'how good can it get?' But thanks to PSD, many of us struggle to be okay with the latter. 

It means that when we have that niggle of 'isn't there more to this marriage?' or 'I love my kids but I want to go back to work' we feel greedy and ungrateful. We beat ourselves up. We tell ourselves to stop complaining. To suck it up. To make do. 


As Dr Rein explains, when you're in the state of survival, the focus is on working hard and getting through the day. 

But, as she also points out, "do you want to settle for crumbs, or do you want to have a feast?" 

We don't have to just 'survive' anymore. But turns out, we feel like that because of all the intergenerational trauma that's been passed down to us. 

Ladies, we deserve the damn feast.

 2. Do you have imposter syndrome? 


Dr Rein explains this phenomenon as the 'wound of worthlessness.' 

As women we have always been taught that our 'worth' is less than men. Be that our body, our mind or our life. 

She says it manifests in places like lowering our standards in relationships, or constantly worrying - even in happy relationships - that we're not good enough.

What if they wake up today and don't like me? What if we move in together and they decide they don't love me? What if they see my naked body and are repulsed? What if they meet my family and hate them? What if they LEAVE ME?

Why do I feel panicked, when I know I am in a healthy, safe, loving, relationship?!? 

Yep, that's the wound of worthlessness. 


On the career side of things, studies have shown that women experience professional imposter syndrome more than men. Dr Rein says it doesn't correlate with 'confidence.' We often don't even know it's there. She explains that the science shows that actions are decided in our subconscious, and our conscious mind catches up later. 

Yes, that's why women don't ask for more money in job interviews. 

Yes, that's why men apply for a job when they meet only 60 per cent of the qualifications, while women only apply if they meet 100 per cent of the criteria. 

Suddenly. It. All. Makes. More. Sense.

3. Do you never feel truly 'safe'?

It's never been safe to be a woman. Our biological prerogative is survival.

Don't be too sexy, you'll be raped.

Don't be too smart, no one will want to marry you.

Don't get too old, society will forget you.

Don't take too long off work to raise babies, no company will hire you.

Lose the 'baby weight' or your partner won't want to have sex with you. 

It's all bullshit. But we live in a world, still, where a woman's power and worth are conditional - even if those conditions have been modernised.

You get older? Sorry, you're no longer desirable. 

You snapped at your kids? Sorry, you're no longer a good mother. 


You had a career break to raise a family? Sorry, you're no longer a good candidate. 

And so on, and so on and so on. Even the most confident women subconsciously dim their own light, because it feels unnatural to own our own brilliance and beauty. Historically, that wasn't safe.

4. Do you struggle to reach orgasm with a partner?

Do you have trouble sleeping, relaxing, orgasming, looking in the mirror without feeling critical?

WELL. According to Dr Rein, all of that is rooted in PSD. 

Relaxing is hard because of the goddamn patriarchy? Oh.

 Just like the 'wound of worthlessness' this is all based on 'survival of the anxious.'


Worrying kept us alive, says Dr Rein. So worrying, or being in mental overdrive is how we remain. It's literally because we are....traumatised.

5. You've tried self-help books, retreats, yoga, meditation, therapy, medication... and you're still not where you want to be?

Our culture teaches women to follow a path. Be a good girl. Do well at school. Work hard in your career. Get married. Have children. Take holidays. 

We have to do all of these things to earn fulfillment and happiness.

But what happens when you "have it all" and you are still not happy? Well, you turn to self-help, meditation, exercise, therapy....still nothing? Yup, you guessed it, that's just our old friend trauma courtesy of the underlying PSD. 

6. Do you feel more on edge the more successful you get?

Dr Rein writes: "The more a woman breaks through the inner and outer glass ceilings and grows in her visibility and success, the more her nervous system drives up its hyper-activation, hyper-vigilance. Our nervous system perceives increased success as increased threat."

It's ironic, isn't it? The more we step into our own power, the more our subconscious programming sounds the alarm: UNSAFE UNSAFE UNSAFE.

Successful women were not of value back in the day. We were burnt at the stake, drowned, locked up in asylums.

Of course we don't think that's going to happen to us nowadays, but Dr Rein says it manifests today in women holding themselves back. Or going for it, and burning out. It's why successful women might have trouble sleeping - because their brains are in hyper-activation.

You don't hear about men worrying about shining too bright. It's not even a thought. But women are constantly asking themselves: who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, and talented? 


It's important to note that modern men did not create the patriarchy, and in fact all of us - both men and women - take part in it. 

Over time, we are slowly but surely breaking it down but it is still there, humming away in the background. And so, the intergenerational trauma continues. 


But never fear, Dr Rein can help us all overcome PSD. You can find out more about that here. 

Don't know about you, but I will just be over here spending the entire weekend self diagnosing. And probably not sleeping. Or properly relaxing. And worrying. 


Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.