Alcoholism is a dangerous disease affecting millions of Americans. In general, alcoholism is the consumption of alcohol that eventually results in physical or mental health issues. Although there are many causes of alcoholism, most are contributing to why the increase in alcoholism in women.
Alcohol and Women
Women may turn to excessive drinking to deal with stress, anxiety, or depression. There may have been a history of alcoholism in their family. Advertising, marketing, and normalization of drinking can also influence a woman to become an alcoholic.
While each individual is unique, the increase in alcoholism in women may be traced to a few similar causes. Physically we know more alcohol passes into the bloodstream for women than it does for men. The result is women are exposed to toxicity more than their male counterparts.
This explains why women may be at a higher risk of over-indulging and potentially more likely to develop alcohol dependence. However, there are many external factors that are playing a larger role in the increase of alcoholism in women.
Increase in Mental Health Disorders
Increased drinking can be a result of the loss of control over one’s mental health disorders. Many women turn to alcohol when they are battling depression or anxiety. While alcohol is a depressant, those who feel sad often drink to make themselves feel better. Instead, the person may feel worse and consume more alcohol as a way to self-medicate, creating an unending cycle.
In some women, drinking alcohol can temporarily relieve them from racing thoughts in their head, a common sign of anxiety. They may have a few drinks to feel less nervous in social settings. Over time women will turn to alcohol more and more to help them with social situations.
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Advertising Alcohol to Women
Men have traditionally been the only ones who portrayed drinking in advertisements. More recently, women have been heavily targeted within the advertising industry. The alcohol industry has found new ways to target women in its advertising after noticing that women drink as much as men drink and began to target them directly.
The alcohol industry even updated its packaging to attract women. They introduced pink drinks such as cosmos and chocolate wine. Wine is a big seller among women and is often presented among groups of laughing and drinking women in advertisements. Other marketing strategies are presenting hard liquor as a sophisticated option for discerning women.
Many of these advertisements have been specifically attracting younger women. Marketing companies have developed “girly drinks” for the younger crowd. Even the health-conscious athlete woman is being bombarded by new low-calorie options. Mothers are even more noticeably targeted as the “wine mom” culture increases.
Normalization of Drinking
Heavy drinking has been glamorized and normalized. Instead of selling sex, ads are selling alcohol. These advertisements show women who drink wine to deal with everyday stress. The new women’s liberation movement has heavily promoted drinking as well.
Most of these advertisements have been seen on social media. In addition, television shows and movies have shown women drinking at every moment of the day. This normalization is dangerous for young women, as they do not understand the dangers of drinking.
And, American women are drinking more than ever. They are drinking more than their mothers and grandmothers did, according to alcohol researchers. White women are more likely to drink excessively, with more of them drinking several times per week. In fact, binge drinking has increased 40% since 1997, according to a Washington Post health data report.
Looking to Fill a Void with Alcohol
Women who feel empty inside may turn to alcohol as a temporary fix. They are desperately trying to fill a void that is missing from their lives. They may not feel fulfilled with their career, marriage, relationships, or overall life. They also turn to alcohol to fill the lack of passion or joy they feel.
Women with low self-esteem and self-confidence turn to alcohol to give them a sense of comfort. Unfortunately, alcoholism leads to isolation and loneliness, further exasperating the control alcohol places on those struggling with alcoholism. Oftentimes, women give themselves more responsibilities than they can handle and instead of handling those responsibilities, they turn to alcohol to escape from the pressure. They believe that a few drinks will take away the emptiness or pain.
Hormones are another contributing factor to alcoholism in women. When a woman goes through perimenopause, she experiences changes that lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Many women turn to alcohol to deal with these symptoms. Women who use alcohol to manage the symptoms of perimenopause gradually become addicted to alcohol over time. Women who have a history of alcoholism in their family are more prone to becoming an alcoholic themselves during this time.
Even before perimenopause, a woman’s family history can have an impact on her drinking. Having a family member or two with alcohol issues can increase the risk that another will be diagnosed with alcoholism or other substance abuse disorder. The closer the relation, the greater the risk for that woman. Having a parent or sibling who has a history of alcohol abuse can increase a greater risk than a distant relative, such as a cousin, diagnosed with the same problem.
Drinking in Moderation
Why the increase in alcoholism in women may partially be attributed to what is thought or to be moderate drinking. It is estimated that more than 10% of the female population consumes one drink a day. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, this is considered moderate drinking.
While one drink a day may be considered moderate, and even promoted as healthy, the danger of developing an addiction is present at this level. What the studies do not show is what is considered “one drink.” Many individuals, both men, and women tend to over-pour themselves when having just one drink. For example, someone who pours an 8 oz glass of wine may think they are having just one drink, when in fact they are actually consuming 60% more than what is considered a standard drink.
Addiction Treatment for Women
Not all women who juggle a career with family or have depression or anxiety turn to alcohol as a way to cope. Knowing that you could be at risk of developing a drinking problem can help you find healthier methods for dealing with these issues.
However, situations and circumstances arise that may lead someone to drink. If you or a loved one drinks too much, please contact Ocean Hills Recovery today for more information. Limiting or quitting alcohol can help you live a healthy and successful life.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.