Alcoholism is traditionally thought of as a male disease but even though there are more men suffering from this addiction a growing number of women are also struggling with drinking problems. Studies have shown that women who are alcoholics are often faced with more health problems than men and death rates of 50 to 100 percent higher. One of the biggest problems with women is binge drinking with nearly 14 million binging on six or more alcoholic drinks nearly three times a month. One of the major obstacles to getting help for women alcoholics is a strong sense of shame and the need to hide their behavior.
As a disease, alcoholism is the same for both men and women but in certain aspects there can be differences in the way the disease is developed and the kind of denial that can occur for women. The rate that alcoholism develops is much faster for women who can get to a certain stage of the illness in five years that would take a man 15 years. The way that women deal with denial is mostly a result of their great sense of shame about their problem. Many women alcoholics can attribute their feelings of shame to what they believe to be a greater social stigma on female alcoholics than their male counterparts. Alcoholic behavior at times can seem more socially acceptable for men than it is for women. The fear of this stigma can make it much harder for women to admit they have a problem, causing them to continue living in denial.
Social Stigma for Women Alcoholics
Women must live with the sense of shame that they feel as a result of their alcoholism and instead of getting help they can often go to great lengths to hide their drinking behavior. While men may feel more at ease going to a bar with their friends and staying out all night, women who are mothers or professionals believe they have to keep up a certain appearance. They need to avoid the stigma of being a woman with a drinking problem so they might drink alone or hide alcohol in their coffee cup rather than be public about their alcohol consumption. Female alcoholics also might hide their empty bottles of alcohol so their family does not see them and realize how much they are really drinking. This type of behavior only perpetuates the problem and makes it harder for them to get help.
Shame from Family and Friends
The feeling of shame can be an issue not only for the women themselves struggling with alcohol but for their families and friends as well. It may be more difficult for the people in the lives a woman to call them out on their behavior because they also share in the feeling of shame and stigma. People may feel hesitant to say anything or form any kind of intervention because they don’t want to bring that public shame to their wife, mother, sister or friend. The problem with alcoholism for women is that they must overcome their sense of shame in order to admit they have a problem and get the help that they need. The death rate for alcoholism in women is much higher, possibly because female alcoholics are not going into recovery soon enough to save their lives. Alcoholism is a progressive disease and it moves much more quickly with women. It is important for anyone with an alcohol problem regardless of the stigma they are facing to seek help and treatment from professionals. Without the work done in a recovery for women struggling with addiction, alcoholism can become a fatal disease.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.