Alcohol use disorder is not seen as an issue women face, but more of them are struggling in the background of their lives. What many people don’t realize is how detrimental heavy drinking is for women long term. Men’s health is not as impacted as men’s. Alcohol addiction is surrounded by mystery and mysterious challenges faced by people who struggle silently. Drinking has become more socially acceptable for women. This pattern brings some consequences in that women try to keep up with men and they damage their health as a result. This is seen mostly in social settings or work environments where women are expected to keep up with everyone socially. Find out more about the reasons why alcohol use disorder is bad for women and how to help a loved one navigate it with the right support.
Why Alcoholism Begins
Women struggle with drinking due to many reasons. People drink because they struggle with past trauma, their brain has changed due to addiction, and they may have genetic components. Some, all, or other variations of these issues may occur. To understand why alcoholism starts, it helps to outline a few components:
- Psychology: depression, anxiety, or trauma are some of the main reasons. Women experience sexual assault, rape, and incest at higher rates than men. Men’s rates are also underreported but, for women, they still report less than they should because they are often not believed in court. Perpetrators may go free or serve reduced sentences. This deters women from reporting. There are also other factors at play, including mental health challenges and diagnoses.
- Biology: women may drink less than men but be impacted more. Telescoping is when women progress more quickly from ‘normal’ drinking behavior to dependence. This is due to biological differences in women compared to men and may make the difference between healing and not getting the help they need. A woman’s physiology is very different from men. They experience the effects of alcohol differently, along with the long-term side effects
- Environment: women struggle with their emotions like men do, but they deal in different ways. Women now turn towards alcohol more than men to cope because of changes in social relationships, social media use, and connectedness. Women have less ability to depend on social networks for support than in years past. Increased involvement in women of dual roles in both work and family can increase stress even further and drive substance use
What Makes it Harder
When it comes to what makes alcoholism challenging for women, there are three main reasons to know about it. Women cannot handle alcohol the same way biologically, so it makes a difference how much they drink, what they imbibe, or how long they drink. Here are three other reasons why drinking may be more harmful to women than men:
- Long-term use of alcohol and binge-drinking behavior happens more for women than men. Women absorb alcohol into the bloodstream more quickly. There is more challenge to women taking in alcohol since their bodies contain less water and more fatty tissue than men. Women experience a greater risk of other issues from drinking, including violence
- Liver damage may occur more quickly for women. Chronic alcoholism can develop anemia, hypertension and physical health issues more quickly than men who abuse alcohol. The liver does not process alcohol the same as it does in men so the effects are different, including how long it takes to process the same amount of alcohol as a man
- Women are more likely to die from alcohol-related death than men with substance use disorder that includes alcohol. Women with dependence on it are taking their lives into their own hands. It is difficult to advise how best to navigate these challenges because women don’t realize oftentimes the damage being done until it is too late
Finding Adequate Treatment
Adequate treatment options are not as available for women. Specialized drug treatment that focuses just on women’s issues is key. Finding hope and healing in recovery comes from being part of a dual diagnosis program that focuses on women’s mental health programs. Women face more barriers to treatment, including pregnancy, child protection concerns, and childcare issues. Problems of caring for others have plagued women for a long time. They are taking care of others while they seek adequate treatment in many cases and do not focus just on their own treatment. Women may be more prone to hiding substance abuse out of fear of stigma or repercussions from a partner. Both men and women respond well to specialized behavioral therapies that target alcohol use disorder. Women may benefit from mixed-gender programs for alcohol use disorder. It depends on their desires, needs, and challenges. Women often do well in women-specific treatment where they are not at risk of being triggered by other men due to past trauma. Women need support from loved ones to reduce alcohol consumption and find help in recovery. There are many nuances to treating women in rehab. The more we know about how women need specific treatment, the more targeted the approach can be to better support their healing journey. Addressing the layers of issues helps women make improvements in all aspects of life, including relationships and physical health.
Casa Capri is designed for women who are struggling with addiction to find hope and a purpose. Trauma-informed care is part of the program here for women at Casa Capri. We take your recovery seriously and want you to heal. If you are struggling, we are here to help: Call us at 844-593-8020
Melissa Holmes Goodmon, Founder & CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, obtained her BA in Psychology and is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (LAADC) specializing in women’s core issues. She is recognized as a leader in the field of mental health and substance abuse recovery where she has been an advocate since 2006.