Misconceptions About Women With Addiction

When we imagine a person with addiction, many of us will picture a man. There is a perception that women are less likely to become addicts, but this can be harmful for women looking for help and support. Tackling the misconceptions about women with addiction can help to smooth the way for women to start their journey to recovery.

Here are five common misconceptions:

Most addicts are men

The truth is, women are just as likely to become addicts as men. The social pressure on women to have a career and a family can cause immense stress that may lead to self-medication through drugs or alcohol.

Women are also more vulnerable to violence at home and in public. They may start using drugs to cope with physical, sexual or psychological abuse and the shame associated with being a victim of abuse. This shame similarly prevents them from seeking help before active addiction takes hold.

Addiction is the same for everyone

While there are often similar themes, each addiction story is unique. Alcohol is often seen as a normal and even necessary part of socialising and it’s acceptable for women to talk openly about needing a drink to cope with stress at work or home. The flip side is that it’s socially unacceptable for a woman to become ‘messy’ or drink to excess. This social expectation leads to feelings of shame that contribute to the addiction cycle.

Women aren’t as affected by drugs or alcohol

Men and women experience addiction in different ways. Often, physical differences can mean women become addicted faster with less exposure to substances. This process is called telescoping. Women are also more predisposed to depression due to both external and physiological factors that can lead to addiction or make the effects worse. Fluctuating hormones may trigger feelings of not being in control and a woman may start taking medication or drinking.

Recovery is easier for women with addiction

Recovery is a process that takes time, commitment and support. There is no easy path to recovery and women with addiction in general require as much assistance as men.

Once a person is in active addiction, changes to brain chemistry make it hard to resist using substances. Greater amounts are needed to feel ‘normal’. The telescoping effect often means women are sicker when they enter rehab and need more intensive treatment to recover.

Men and women have the same triggers

The causes of relapse are different for everyone with addiction, but for women in particular they may be more emotional than situational. The trauma that has contributed to addiction can have lasting effects that trigger shame, guilt and relapse.

Women are more likely to ask for help

The social stigma and trauma associated with addiction are a deterrent for women seeking assistance to recover. Shame about drug or alcohol dependence and the contributing factors such as domestic violence or sexual assault can be a powerful barrier.

Women are more likely to be the primary caregiver for children and elderly parents that may prevent them from entering residential addiction treatment. These family responsibilities can also lead to financial barriers that exclude or delay women seeking treatment.

The Hader Clinic Queensland has extensive experience in treating and supporting women on their recovery journey. We offer a safe environment for women and services (that are LGBTIQ-friendly) to support women on their path to a healthy new life.

Find out more:

Women’s Addiction Treatment
Women and Addiction
Ice Addiction in Women
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Joy’s Story

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