Drug and alcohol addiction was once considered a man's problem, but it now affects an estimated 2.7 million women. According to David Sack, MD at Psychcentral.com, women have different reasons than men for using drugs, and they tend to become addicted faster after using smaller amounts of drugs than their male counterparts. They also have different reasons for relapsing.
Here are the top 5 reasons for relapse. These challenges pose a different threat to women in recovery.
#1. Getting Into Romantic Relationships Too Soon.
Romantic relationships in early recovery pose one of the most significant threats to recovery. If the relationship goes awry, the loss can send recovering addicts into an emotional spiral. Until coping mechanisms are in place, it is common for a relapse to follow a break-up. Women are particularly vulnerable to interpersonal conflicts, and they more often have low self-esteem connected with intimate relationships. Early recovery is a time of self-discovery, and many women are figuring out who they are for the first time in their lives.
#2. Unrecognized Love, Relationship, or Sex Addiction
Both sex and drugs stimulate the brain's reward center, which can put an addict at a greater risk for love or sex addiction. According to Robert Weiss, a sex addiction specialist, "Women who stop using drugs or alcohol but have not fully addressed their underlying emotional challenges may find themselves 'transferring' their addiction to the obsessive pursuit of love, romance, or sexual relationships." In early recovery, the challenge of being alone can be tough for women, and they may seek out attention in sexual or romantic relationships.
#3. Undiagnosed Psychiatric Disorders
More than half the people struggling with addiction also struggle with mental disorders, such as depression or mood disorders. For women, depression is common before relapse, where as men are more likely to relapse as a result of positive emotional states.
#4. Stigma and Lack of Support
Women are often caregivers and parents, and they face the stigma of being a female addict. Marriage seems to reduce men's risk for relapse, where as women are at a greater risk of relapse as a result of marriage or marital conflicts. Women who have suffered from addiction are more likely to be married to a heavy user and drinker that often continues his behavior after the woman has been to treatment. Women are also more likely to pick up with a friend or romantic partner. With less support, women have more difficulty severing the ties with drug buddies. Also, women feel more compelled to return home, often to their children, directly after treatment, which often puts them back in their old environments too soon.
#5. Inadequate Coping Skills
Women tend to have less belief in their ability to handle difficult situations. Because depression is a big risk factor for a woman's relapse, they must learn to cope with unpleasant emotions and interpersonal problems.
Despite these risks, some studies have shown that women are less likely to relapse than men, partly because they are more likely to engage in group counseling. Women are generally more willing to take the first step, in admitting they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. They are also more likely to seek help for their problem.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, please contact us.