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Breaking Down Gender Specific Challenges for Women in Addiction Treatment

on Monday, 29 September 2014. Posted in Breaking News, Treatment

Women and men are different in more than just biological ways. The differences between men and women can affect the way they communicate and connect with one another. Because women have certain psychological differences than men, their specific needs can bring up issues when they are receiving addiction treatment.

On a biological level, women metabolize alcohol differently than men and can progress through the stages of alcoholism more quickly. The way that women respond to their problems with addiction can lead to certain challenges in the process of alcohol recovery. With special care and attention to their needs, women can be more successful in their journey to sobriety.

An Increase in Female Alcoholics

Although alcoholism is often considered a “man’s disease” because addiction is more frequent in men than women, there are a growing number of female alcoholics in the U.S. that are struggling to recover. The National Institute for Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse estimates that about 5.5 million drink alcohol excessively placing their health at risk. Men still represent a majority of the alcoholics seeking treatment although their percentage has decreased due to more women checking into recovery centers.

One of the biggest challenges that women in recovery face is the likelihood of having other psychiatric problems associated with their alcoholism. Depression has proven to be more frequent in women than in men and women are also more likely to be exposed to trauma. Depression, on its own or in relation to their alcohol abuse, impacts women at twice the rate of men. Women tend to have pre-existing factors that can influence their addiction such as anxiety, depression and critical internal voice. They also have specific stressors that can contribute to their addiction including relationships with parents and siblings, romantic relationships and work.

Differences in Women and Men

There are physiological differences that can make it harder for women when dealing with an alcohol addiction. One such issue is the fact that their bodies metabolize alcohol very differently than men. Women have less of the chemical necessary to break down alcohol into a less toxic and neurobiological chemical. As a result of this, women tend to metabolize alcohol much slower and the more alcohol they drink the more of an accumulative effect the drug will have on them. Taking longer to metabolize and digest alcohol can lead to a more toxic effect on the body and women are also exposed to a higher percent of alcohol in the brain.

Because of these physiological differences, men are able to tolerate more alcohol and can drink more to remain within healthy guidelines. Even women who drink socially can run a greater risk of experiencing the toxic effects of alcohol on their body.

Recovery for Alcoholic Women

Women also tend to have different triggers than men that can lead them to drink excessively. One of the biggest triggers that many women have identified is their own critical inner voice. They might have anxiety and depression that leads them to have an inner monologue that could be negative and self-judging. This type of negative self-image and criticism can be a major challenge for them in the process of treatment.

Women also tend to gravitate more toward group therapy when they are receiving addiction treatment. Group therapy seems to be more effective for women who need the sense of community and being a part of a system to get the full effects of recovery. Women tend to experience more success when they seek treatment before hitting “rock bottom”.

Because of the physiological differences, women can be in a dangerous place if they wait too long to enter recovery treatment. The best option for women is to seek recovery early and treat their addiction and psychological issues simultaneously.

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