Women’s Alcoholism: How to Get Rid of Addiction Forever?

Aug 26, 2019

Women’s alcoholism is much less common than that of men. Wife, mother, guardian of the hearth – how can she sink her problems in a bottle of alcohol? But statistics do not lie. In the mid-1980s the ratio of women and men among patients with alcoholism in Russia was 1:12, then after the 2000s it approached 1:5. [1] In this article we will talk about the peculiarities of alcohol addiction in women and the existing ways of its effective treatment. Is it true that women’s alcoholism is not curable? What are the challenges that an addicted woman and her close ones face during treatment?


  • Peculiarities of female alcoholism
  • How does alcoholism occur in women?
  • Stages of female alcoholism
  • Urgent treatment: consequences of female alcoholism
  • How to cure female alcoholism

Peculiarities of female alcoholism

“My mother is 45, my father died 5 years ago. Mother had a very difficult period – she fell into depression and generally stopped leaving the house. By that time, I had been away from my parents’ home for a long time already, but I supported my mother as best I could – coming to see her, buying her food and things.

It seemed to me that her life gradually improved within a year. She began to look more cheerful and at least began to smile. But it is clear now, that this was just the beginning of new problems. My mother had started drinking. I hadn’t noticed it for at least 3 years! I recently came to my parents’ place to help my mother with cleaning when she wasn’t there. I found lots of empty bottles. And they were not beer, wine or “light” cocktails, but strong alcohol. I was amazed. How could I have missed it? It was always clean at home and she works and meets with friends. Only she looks worse than before, but I thought it was all because of the grief she experienced.

There followed a difficult conversation with my mother. At first, she denied everything, then she cried and said that only alcohol helps her to feel normal. Only after long persuasion she agreed to see a doctor”.

– Irina, 25

There is an opinion that women’s alcoholism is not curable. This is not entirely true. The condition is curable. But many experts believe that alcoholism among women has a more unfavorable course and accelerated addiction compared to men. This is due to physiological features. Women have fewer fluids and enzymes responsible for the splitting of ethanol. Therefore, only 2-4 years can pass from the initial to acute stage of the disease, while in men physical addiction to alcohol occurs not earlier than after 5 years. [1] This data is obtained for the equal quantity of alcohol drunk daily.

Alcohol addiction among women has somewhat other features that complicate therapy in the future

  1. A woman carefully hides the dangerous addiction

In society, there is a strict taboo against women taking large doses of alcohol. They should raise children and take care of their husbands, but not drink. Fear of being condemned and ridiculed leads to the fact that a woman can hide her problems for a long time. As a rule, her relatives will turn for help, but not the addicted – she will deny everything to the utmost. Often this is why addiction is only discovered as chronic alcoholism, which is extremely difficult to cure. [2]

  1. Addiction is burdened by heredity

According to the data from domestic and foreign scientists, the course of alcohol addiction in women is burdened by heredity. A significant role is played by the pernicious habit of the mother. The risk of developing alcoholism in the daughter, whose mother was drinking, reaches 22%. When planning addiction therapy, doctors generally consider the heredity factor. [2]

  1. Women start drinking at an older age

According to a number of scientists, alcohol addiction among women develops more often after 25 years, and in men after 21. 

The factors of the microsocial environment (drinking parents/husband/girlfriends) and mental trauma that a woman cannot cope with, play a decisive role in developing this bad habit. At the same time, the psycho-emotional reasons prevail. [3]

The so-called “widow alcoholism” condition is also widespread. This is when a woman begins to drink after a serious loss of loved ones. In such cases, alcoholism can develop even at a pre-retirement age. [3]

How does alcoholism occur in women?

The main symptom of the development of serious alcohol addiction in both men and women is an increased interest in alcoholic drinks. Everything can start with a couple of glasses of wine at dinner. But on each occasion the addict begins to drink more and more. The first sign is when a sense of anxiety and stress is relieved with another dose of alcohol. One either says “stop!” or continues with this dangerous habit.

When, due to external or internal factors, a woman cannot give up drinking and alcohol dependency develops rapidly. Psychological symptoms and signs of female alcoholism include:

  • desire for solitude;
  • search for any reason to drink;
  • excuses for the addiction of external factors;
  • constant mood swings – from light-heartedness to depression.

When a woman starts to drink, she will often try to preserve her social status for a long time and continue to take care of herself. She will skillfully hide any external signs of the harmful habit under a layer of cosmetics on her face. But disorders in the psychological and physical spheres soon lead women to such a state that the symptoms of addiction can’t be hidden from others. The following facts can be added to the external features of female alcoholism:

  • dark circles under eyes,
  • skin redness in the form of spots or thin lines,
  • poor nails and hair condition,
  • hand tremor,
  • a haunted look.

Stage of female alcoholism

The pathological habit of a woman progresses through same stages as that of a man, but the main difference that it is more rapid. In Russian narcology, there are 3 stages of female alcoholism. [4]

The first stage is compensated, pre-alcoholic, prodromal

The initial stage of alcoholism in women is often formed up to the age of 30 and lasts for about 3-4 years. The use of alcohol helps her ease her personal worries and relieve stress. It all starts with drinks with low alcohol content – often it is just beer.

The woman gradually loses control over the amount of her drinking. The initial physiological symptoms of female alcoholism are a deterioration of appearance and memory disorders (alcoholic amnesia).

The second stage is middle, wide, critical

The main sign of addiction at this stage is the presence of abstinent (hangover) syndrome. A person needs to drink to make her feel better. The organism itself is already completely addicted to alcohol but there is a transition to stronger alcoholic drinks. Various diseases connected to excessive alcohol consumption begin to develop.

In women and men, the second stage of alcoholism can last for many years. But a woman is much more likely to show clearer signs of the disease in her behavior. She may try to hide her dangerous habit and may increasingly become more isolated.

The third stage is chronic, severe, encephalopathic

The chronic stage of alcoholism in a woman is formed after 10-15 years of constant consumption of alcoholic drinks. Physical addiction increases and there is a complete loss of control over the situation. A woman who is suffering from addiction will stop at nothing to get a drink. The personality becomes degraded and memory, thinking, and intelligence are broken.

Urgent treatment: consequences of female alcoholism

The negative consequences of female alcoholism are reflected in all aspects of the life of the addict.

  1. The female body is “weaker” than the male, so excessive use of alcohol will provoke more quickly a development of diseases of the cardiovascular and sexual systems as well as the liver and kidneys. At the last stage of pathology, health will be totally ruined. Life expectancy will decline by 5-10 years after the beginning of progressive alcoholism and a woman will look much older than her biological age. The condition suppresses her, and the stress involved pushes her further into the addiction.
  2. A drinking woman becomes estranged from her relatives. She is no longer concerned with the relations with her husband or the upbringing of her child. Her main goal is to get the next quantity of strong alcohol. If a man has not left the family, the upbringing of children falls entirely on him. More severe consequences come when a mother is raising a child alone. In this case, the child remains without love and care, which negatively affects his/her development. Women with severe alcohol addiction may be legally deprived of their parental rights.
  3. Under the influence of alcohol, a woman is unable to control herself. This can lead to frequent sexual partner changes. She is no longer concerned about birth control, so there are frequent cases of “drunken” pregnancies. In many cases alcoholic women have children with different developmental abnormalities.
  4. A woman with alcohol addiction completely falls out of society. Others condemn her behavior and her circle of friends narrows to similar asocial persons.

Treatment of female alcoholism should be started as early as possible, and the responsibility lies with her close ones. According to doctors, often women, even with strong alcohol intoxication, refuse to undergo long-term rehabilitation. Only relatives can convince the patient to start therapy. [3]

How to cure female alcoholism

“I have been drinking for 12 years already. At first, I did not see any problem with this – I just removed stress with a glass of wine after work. But when my husband left me, I really slipped up. There were parties with friends and lonely evenings with a bottle. Five years later I realized that this is already an addiction. Every day began with a desire to drink more quickly. Perhaps if I had a child, I would keep myself away from drinking. But I do not have anyone at all, no one needs me.

During these years I started to look worse and lost my body shape. Almost all of my money was spent on alcohol. I would just go to work for the sake of appearance – and to earn money for alcohol!

A couple of years ago, I was hospitalized with alcoholic intoxication. I decided to change my life and undergo rehabilitation. I led a sober way of life for almost six months. But then it all started again. Now I flit between drinking too much or keeping myself sober. I have alcoholism. Help me, I’m losing myself into drinking. I cannot fight my addiction on my own”.

– Angelika, 35

The modern treatment of alcoholism in men and women comprises a comprehensive therapy. The approach to rehabilitation per se does not depend on the gender – the same methods are applied.

In order to avoid female alcoholism, a comprehensive diagnosis of the patient is carried out initially. The stage of alcoholism and the degree of damage in various systems of the organism are identified. The personal problems that led to the development of the pathological habit are studied. On the basis of the information collated, the doctor develops a further course of treatment.

To cure female alcoholism, the patient starts by taking medications. They help remove toxins from the body and achieve a stable remission in the extent of damage caused by the use of alcohol. This is the first stage of treatment – it is initially vital to normalize the physical condition of the addict. The list of prescribed drugs depends on the stage of the disease and which internal organs have been affected. [4]

The most difficult aspect in the therapy however is the struggle against the main cause of the addiction – the psychological attraction to alcohol. Without psychotherapy, it is impossible to effectively fight female alcoholism and achieve a lasting positive result.

An addict will often have relapses, even against the background of successful treatment of alcoholism. Canadian scientists have found that the return to the addiction in women is mainly related to psycho-emotional causes (stress, conflicts with relatives, problems at work), while men’s relapses are more likely due to pressure from friends. [3] This is why it is thought by some that women’s alcoholism cannot be permanently cured. An addict is literally in a closed circle – from the previous remission to the next.

These reasons explain why success in treating female alcoholism also depends in a large part upon the surrounding people. The work of psychologists with relatives consists of teaching them correct behavior with the patient during periods of her sobriety and breaks. The woman urgently needs the help and support of her family.

In the treatment of female alcoholism, methods of behavioral psychotherapy are actively utilized. They help form a conscious attitude in the patient to refuse a drink. A good result in this direction is shown by the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented technique based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner and A.A. Ukhtomsky.

The course with the support of a psychologist will help master a healthy behavior model. It will teach you to enjoy life without chemical stimulators, to feel comfortable when conducting a sober existence and to find rational ways to fight stress. This is a huge step towards getting rid of alcoholism. With the support of a close relative, an addicted woman will replace her negative settings with positive ones, which will help her to improve her life.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique course is designed for up to 6 weeks. Many people are reluctant to seek help, not wishing to share their alcohol-related problems. But this will not be necessary, because communication and consultation with the psychologist will be conducted in a strictly confidential mode. Specialists answer all questions and consult by e-mail, in online chats or over the phone.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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