For a long time, alcoholism was considered a “man’s disease.” Drug and alcohol counseling catered to men, and research subjects were almost exclusively male. As more and more women began seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, researchers began to explore the gender differences in treating addicts and alcoholics. Some say there is good evidence that women begin drinking for different reasons, go to treatment for different reasons, and face different challenges in their recovery.
David Sack, MD, CEO of Promises in Malibu recently wrote an article on Psych Central suggesting that women relapse for different reasons than men. According to him, these are the top 5 reasons women relapse:
Top 5 Reasons Women Relapse: Getting into Romantic Relationships Too Soon
I’ve seen both men and women relapse because they got into romantic relationships too soon. However, Sack believes that women are more prone to this than men. He states “At a time when thinking can be clouded and emotions run high, women are at greater risk for attracting or becoming attracted to someone who is addicted, abusive or otherwise emotionally unavailable.”
Top 5 Reasons Women Relapse: Unrecognized Love, Relationship, or Sex Addiction
Being drawn to unhealthy relationships in early recovery can be a sign of an undiagnosed love, relationship, or sex addiction, according to Sack. As addicts, we are drawn to the chemical highs that love, sex and romance produce. In his own words, “Early recovery may present new challenges for some women: the challenge of being alone, feeling worthless or unloved when not in a relationship, or needing the attention of prospective partners to boost self-esteem can all point to a deeper issue of sex and relationship addiction.”
Top 5 Reasons Women Relapse: Undiagnosed Psychiatric Disorders
Over half of people struggling with an alcohol and drug addiction have what is referred to as a dual diagnosis—struggling with addiction alongside a mental health disorder, such as depression, bi-polar disorder, trauma or a personality disorder. According to Sack, “negative feelings and depressed mood are particularly common before a relapse, whereas men are more likely to relapse as a result of positive emotional states.”
Top 5 Reasons Women Relapse: Stigma and Lack of Support
While anyone who suffers from addiction is prone to social stigma, Sack believes that women are more likely to encounter barriers that prevent them from seeking or following through with treatment. They also may get less support from loved ones. He states that “As a result of this lack of social support, women may have difficulty severing the ties to their drug-using comrades and establishing a new sober network.”
Top 5 Reasons Women Relapse: Inadequate Coping Skills
Coping strategies in recovery are very important to long term sobriety. Addicts and alcoholics tend to be emotionally immature. They never developed coping strategies to deal with stress in everyday life because they always used drugs and alcohol to manage. According to Sack, this is particularly relevant in women. He says that “Women tend to demonstrate a weaker belief in their ability to handle difficult situations as well as poorer coping skills.”
What do you think? Do women relapse for different reasons than men?
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