Science has finally proven what many of us long suspected — boys and girls do learn differently. (Some public schools are even introducing gender-specific classrooms.) We also know women respond very differently to addiction and experience different effects from it. For women, the physiological and psychological effects can be much more severe. This in turn can affect how they are when attempting to stay sober. Yet this is only the beginning.
Among female patients, the dual diagnosis rate (including disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD) is much higher than among men. The mortality rate for female addicts is 50 to 100 percent higher than is for addicted men. Women become intoxicated faster and get addicted more quickly. Compared to men, the reasons women develop a chemical dependency are usually different.
What about treatment? How can they become sober women? Women experience much greater obstacles to getting treatment. While 40% of alcoholics are female, women make up just 25% of the population receiving treatment for this disease. The barriers are not just social stigma, either. Practical concerns often get in the way, like the fear of having their children taken away or the lack of easily available childcare. (With 30 years experience treating women addicts & getting them sober, New Directions for Women has an extensive children’s program that goes far beyond simple childcare. We make sure children can have plenty of contact with their mothers while treating the issues that often develop in children of addicts.)
Looking at the history of society, women have long been in a position of denying and trying to hide alcohol or other substance use problems. The woman’s role has been central to their family’s stability, putting them in a nurturing position, so admitting to a drinking problem has often been considered shameful.
The truth is that compared with men, women are more likely to lack family and social support for getting treatment. Addiction being a family disease, even in the most dysfunctional family, the role of mother or wife are seen as crucial to meeting others’ needs, so denial can be a powerful barrier to treatment.
Since women feel more strongly that substance use is stigmatized, they may be afraid of losing their job if their issues become known. They’re less likely to start “acting out” at work and may have less visible positions than their male colleagues. If they have children, staying home with sick children is commonly used as an excuse for being absent.
In fact, many women with problems don’t even realize they have them. Many now sober women came to treatment indirectly: rather than looking for addiction treatment, they went to their doctors about stomach complaints or went to a psychologist looking for help with anxiety or depression.
At New Directions for Women, we’re used to helping women of all generations deal with the issues of addiction. We’re located in a peaceful setting near a nature preserve, and we have 30 years experience healing women on the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual levels. While we start off with the traditional treatments like 12-steps meetings, group, and individual counseling, we also go far beyond. Part of the New Directions program includes experiential therapies like working with horses, yoga, meditation, art therapy, rock climbing, and much more.