Using alcohol and other substances is not something that only men do. Women are just as susceptible to addiction as men despite many popular stereotypes. In fact, women tend to become addicted faster than their male peers. Whether it be alcohol, prescription medications, or other substances, women have many reasons they begin using substances. So, what are the reasons women drink?
Substance Abuse Does Not Discriminate
Society is still more accepting of men using substances than women. The stigma that it is okay for a man to have a drink with a friend, frequent a bar, or go to a party, but not for a woman to do the same is an out-of-date viewpoint. Women have severe pain and are prescribed pain medications just like men, and it is just as easy for them to become addicted.
Your gender does not make you somehow immune to pain or trauma, nor does it define who can and cannot become addicted. When it comes to all substances, addiction does not discriminate.
Drinking to Self-Medicate from Past Trauma
Perhaps the most common denominator in substance abuse for women is past trauma. When a woman experiences trauma in childhood or later, it will often stick with her. Trauma is powerful because it overwhelms both the mind and body with pain and emotions that you may not be prepared to deal with. That pain gets trapped inside of you and can be highly uncomfortable to live with.
Without knowing what to do or how to heal from trauma on your own, you may begin drinking or using other substances to try to escape or self-medicate the pain. Unfortunately, substances do not make the trauma go away. Drinking and using substances just create more problems in your life, including addiction.
Self-Medicating Depression or Anxiety
Women, on average, are about twice as likely to suffer from addiction. Many women also suffer from anxiety or other mental health diagnoses. Sometimes these diagnoses are genetic and are passed down each generation in families. Other times, the onset of depression or anxiety coincides with traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or exposure to violence, war, or terrorism. Additionally, as with self-medicating for relief from trauma, using substances compounds the situation, worsens depression or anxiety, and leads to addiction.
Women Begin Drinking Because of Relationship Dysfunction
Many women begin drinking because of relationship dysfunction. Often, women will begin using substances with a romantic partner due to relational peer pressure that stems from fear of losing their significant other. Other times, women start using substances because of the dysfunction within the relationship itself. Still, others will begin using substances to deal with a breakup.
Women also begin using substances because of other family members. Whether it is simply a learned behavior, socially acceptable due to family or culture, or dysfunctional relationships within the family, substance abuse can begin at home.
Poor Self-Esteem Can Cause Women to Drink
Another significant factor in developing an addiction is poor self-esteem. Many women suffer from poor self-esteem due to a large number of factors. Some of these factors include:
- High rates of trauma, especially incest and other sexual assaults
- Negative views of their physical attributes due to cultural sexualization of women
- Lower assessment of their intellectual capabilities due to stigma
- Negative body image due to social media and other comparisons
- Cultural and societal stereotypes that limit opportunities in education and careers
How Women Heal From Substance Abuse
Just as there are some different reasons that women begin using substances, there are also additional barriers to treatment for women. Stigma, family obligations, lower access to insurance, and financial stability can all inhibit women more dramatically from accessing treatment than their male peers.
Women also heal differently from substance abuse. For over a hundred years, research, data, and treatment for substance abuse were almost exclusively centered around men and their biological and emotional needs. The same blanket treatment programs have been applied to women without assessing their unique needs.
A majority of women need access to trauma-informed care to be able to treat the underlying trauma that contributed to their substance abuse. They need to feel safe and in control of their environment. Women also thrive in programs where they can be vulnerable and supportive of one another. Because so many women have similar experiences and stories of survival in trauma and substance abuse, giving women the opportunity to empower one another helps them to heal faster and become stronger together.
What are the reasons women drink? Women begin using substances to self-medicate the pain caused by trauma or mental health diagnoses. They drink or use drugs because of dysfunctional relationships and low self-esteem, but they also heal differently than men as well. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women was created to give women trauma-informed care and a specifically designed program. Our focus is on education to bring out self-awareness. We use the four principles of Ho Tai: prosperity, wealth, joy, and abundance as viewed through the lens of recovery to help you learn to receive the gifts that you are worthy of. We believe in your power to heal, and we simply offer guidance during treatment for you to find your way. Our comfortable Costa Mesa, California facility is a safe refuge for women to heal and empower one another. Contact us at (714) 581-3974 to learn more.