How Addiction Affects Women Differently Than Men

Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 12:23 pm in
young woman sitting on bank of creek

While addiction to alcohol and other drugs is an equal-opportunity disease, women are affected differently than men. In addition to the social stigma, women face other physical, emotional, and practical challenges.Generally speaking, women progress faster in addiction than men. They also recover differently. Recognizing these differences can be critical in identifying addiction and determining the most effective treatment options.

Substance use disorder tends to progress more rapidly to serious consequences in women. The liver, the brain and other organs tend to be damaged more quickly in women than in men. The female body processes alcohol, and to varying extents other addictive substances, differently than does the male body. Women have less of a stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol. This leads to greater blood alcohol concentration. Women also have more fatty tissue than men, so alcohol is absorbed better into the bloodstream. One drink for a woman can have twice the physical impact as one drink for a man. Therefore the brain and other organs are exposed to higher concentrations of blood alcohol for longer periods of time and more likely to be damaged.

Also, women struggling with substance use are more likely to have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yet women are less likely to seek treatment than men. Powerful feelings of shame and guilt deter women from seeking help for addiction, even when their lives depend on it. Denial, fear, and shame prevent women from looking honestly at their drinking and drug use, and from asking friends or family for help, or consulting a professional. 

The stigma attached to addiction can be stronger for women—especially mothers. They may fear that they will lose custody of their children, or may feel unworthy of help.

In treatment and ongoing recovery, many women need to work on self-reliance, empowerment, learning to trust themselves, and learning to respect and care for themselves first, before focusing on the care of others. 

The good news is that recovery often happens fast for women. Recovery is a natural for women. That's because women are wired for relationships, and recovery from addiction starts with connection. 

The female brain is very different from the male brain. Women are wired for connection. Many women take their worth from the quality of their relationships. Addiction is an extremely isolating condition. Women lose themselves and their most important relationships to addiction. Much of the healing process of recovery revolves around connecting with others who share the struggle.

Although there are ongoing issues that may pop up throughout the recovery that create vunerability to relapse, all issues respond to the solutions explored in the first day of recovery. It starts with connection with others and asking for help. It’s about maintaining an attitude of honesty, openness, and willingness to change and grow.

Contact us with your questions. Our staff of professionals can help you recover from your addiction as well as your post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Call us today at 330-330-8777