You've seen the memes, social media posts, and images in movies, ads and on TV - an overworked, underappreciated, on-the-verge mother who reaches for a bottle of pinot at the end of the day as her little reward. While a glass of wine or cocktail once in a while isn't a red flag for addiction, substance abuse is a growing issue among adult American women.
Thirteen percent of women who drink report having more than seven drinks weekly, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. With a trend towards normalizing alcohol use among women, especially via social media, alcoholism is a problem that may go unnoticed.
Whether you're a woman who is starting to worry that you may have a problem or you're concerned about a loved one in your life, take a look at what you need to know about women and alcohol abuse.
Just like the Don Drapers of the 1950s threw back highballs and martinis without a thought, today's women (especially millennial women with children) may think little of popping open a bottle of wine at the end of a long day. The problem arises when the woman consistently drinks that bottle of wine night after night while thinking this type of alcohol consumption is completely normal.
Between advertising that's geared towards women, social media posts (probably including posts your own friends make), and what you see on TV, it may seem like alcohol is the new mother's little helper. Beyond the depictions of women drinking and the ads themselves, products such as oversized wine glasses that hold an entire bottle further normalize excessive consumption.
When does social drinking or having a glass of wine now and then to relax go from under control to a problem? A consistent pattern of use that becomes dangerous or in some way harmful to the woman who is drinking or to others around her constitutes abuse.
Alcoholism is a disease. Over time, alcohol abuse changes how the drinker's brain and body react to the substance. This can create a physical and psychological need to drink, perpetuating the abuse cycle.
Signs of abuse can range from mild to severe, depending on the woman. Symptoms include:
Spending significant time drinking
Hiding or lying about alcohol consumption
Wanting to stop but not being able to
Putting herself into unsafe situations while drinking
Progressively having to drink more alcohol to feel an effect
Missing typical activities (such as a child's sports practice)
Having significant behavior changes or sudden trouble at home
Any of these may signal a problem.
Even though men (in general) report drinking more than women, females tend to have more problems from chronic alcohol use and abuse. Gender-related biological differences between men and women result in females absorbing more alcohol than males when drinking the same amounts. These differences also cause women to take longer than men to metabolize alcohol.
These biological differences mean that women feel the effects of alcohol quicker and for longer than men. The end result is that women are at a higher risk for chronic alcohol-related physical conditions.
Along with the general negative outcomes, such as depression, strained relationships, job loss, and risky behaviors, alcohol can impact women in several gender-related ways. These include an increased risk of developing neurological damage, cardiac issues, some cancers, and liver disease.
Alcoholism can affect the woman's menstrual cycle, causing infertility. Women who suffer from alcoholism and get pregnant put their babies at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, premature labor, stillbirth, and miscarriage.
What can you do if you or a loved one has an alcohol abuse problem? Contact Rehabilitation Care Group for information on treatment options.