Women's Mental Health and Addiction

Women’s Mental Health and Addiction

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Millions of American women grapple with mental health issues and the destructive consequences of alcohol and drug addictions daily. Understanding the connection between women’s mental health and addiction can provide insight into the most effective methods of prevention and treatment.

Early research on the causes and effects of addiction and its relationship to mental health solely focused on men. It was thought that drug addiction was primarily a male problem. Women experiencing problems with alcohol or drug addiction were thought to be having essentially the same experience as men, and therefore, would require the same approach to prevention and treatment techniques. As studies continued and expanded to include female experiences, biological and environmental factors became evident. Studies showed that the factors that are related to women’s addiction problems[1] are different than that of men, and that treatment must be tailored as such.

Women Suffer Higher Mental Disorders at Increasing Rates

The stress of daily life can lead many women to form anxieties that have the potential to develop into debilitating disorders that disrupt or even destroy lives, families, and careers.

According to the World Health Organization[2], women are twice as likely to develop mental health problems as men. These mental health problems, in turn, lead many women to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Women suffering from mental health issues can be vulnerable to drug or alcohol addictions, sending them further into a depressive state. Mental illnesses that affect increasing numbers of women who wind up developing harmful addictions include:


Defined by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Symptoms can display episodic or chronic bouts of depression.

Panic Disorders

General anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress, and social anxiety are examples of panic disorders. These may lead to or develop as a result of a drug or alcohol addiction.

Eating Disorders

The sociocultural sexualizing of women throughout the years has been a significant factor in the development of eating disorders. Negative body image and low self-esteem often lead to a negative relationship with food and body dysmorphia and regularly last well into adulthood. Anorexia and bulimia typically develop during a woman’s teenage years, but women of all ages can be affected.

Beyond self-medicating mental illnesses, some of the unique reasons that women turn to drugs[3] or alcohol are:

  • Weight control
  • Pain management
  • Staving off exhaustion

Regardless of the root cause of a woman’s substance use, women are vulnerable to falling into dangerous, addictive patterns. While men are more prone to experimenting with drugs, women are as likely to become addicted and even more likely to relapse.
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Connecting Women’s Mental Health and Addiction

For many women in America, mental illness and addiction are connected[4] in dangerous, destructive ways. Women are likely to confide with a physician about physical ailments that may be symptoms of mental health problems and addiction. However, they are generally prone to keep these issues to themselves.

Women often will turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of escaping the symptoms of mental illness, which then creates a vicious circle of dependency and illness.

Mental health problems and addiction are often co-connected and should be dealt with as related issues. Many women who are diagnosed with alcohol or drug addiction are suffering from mental health issues at the same time. A dual diagnosis of addiction and mental health illness requires a specialized treatment plan for both disorders at the same time. Dual diagnosis treatment allows women to heal holistically. Treatment addresses the core issues that cause some women to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Women and the Dangers of Prescription Medication

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found more women are dying of prescription overdoses than ever before, quickly narrowing the gender gap.

Women can also be vulnerable to overdosing on medication prescribed to treat mental illnesses, such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiety medicine
  • Sleeping pills

Factors that have caused the rise in prescription pain medication use among women include:

  • Tend to visit doctors often
  • Generally, report higher pain rates
  • More at risk than men of experiencing chronic pain
  • Receive more prescriptions for pain medication at high doses and for more extended periods

Treating Women’s Mental Health and Addiction

The challenges of women’s mental health and addiction treatment can vary widely from the treatment processes for men. Gender-specific treatment programs for women keep in mind the biological differences and varying social causes and circumstances that can lead women to alcohol and drug addictions.

The compassionate team at Ocean Hills Recovery Drug is committed to providing a wide range of safe and proven treatment programs specially designed for women, including:

  • Addiction Treatment
  • Alcohol Treatment
  • Drug Treatment
  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Inpatient Drug Rehabilitation
  • Intervention
  • 12-Step Recovery

For complete information on the professional recovery programs offered for women, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124962/

[2] http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

[3] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-in-women

[4] https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2017-04-26/5-reasons-women-are-more-prone-to-drug-abuse

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