One of the most common understandings about women and stress is that women are likely to experience more of it. Because of the correlations of stress and women’s health, stress is an important area of concern. The expectations and challenges that women face today heavily contribute to the development of unhealthy coping mechanisms. On top of stress being emotional, physical, and psychological, women becoming stressed outrun a higher risk of substance abuse.
Women who endure extensive and regular pressure without adequate outlets for release become more vulnerable to addiction. What’s worse is that other areas of women’s health may also be compromised on top of dependency. The fact of the matter is, anything can become stressful and threaten a woman’s health if not properly addressed. It’s important to know the risks, what stress looks like, and what can be done to relieve it.
How Are Stress and Women’s Health Linked?
Sometimes stress can come up unexpectedly and affect us in different ways. Other times, it builds up over time, causing a woman to become burnt out, run-down, or totally overwhelmed. For most women, stress will quickly present itself physically.
Women who are stressed out may experience weight loss/gain, headaches, muscle tension, or even skin rashes and hair loss. Many of these are treatable if caught early, and stress is better managed both medically and psychologically. When incorporating behavioral therapy into a health regime, many women are able to establish personal boundaries more firmly for balance. However, sometimes they can have a snowball effect, making everything worse to where anything to help seems like an option. It’s important to find meaningful ways to manage to avoid a much darker path of substance abuse and dependency.
Women and Stress: The Psychological Effects
An emotional or psychological expression of stress and women’s health is even more unsettling. As the brain tries to maintain and adapt to high levels of hormones released under pressure, cognitive function changes. As a result, decision-making is impacted. Combined with the desire for relief or performance enhancement, poor choices can lead to substance abuse, leading to possible addiction.
Most often, stress can be the cause of:
- Hormonal fluctuations and imbalances
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia
- Fatigue or inability to concentrate
- Mood swings, depression and/or anxiety
Getting yourself the right kind of care is crucial to staying healthy while facing the pressures of the world. Unfortunately, so many women who are stressed out find themselves trying to self-medicate with addictive substances just to get by. That one drink to take the edge off can quickly spiral into alcoholism. Then, not only will this method of stress reduction be temporary; it will also add facing addiction to the to-do list.
Women Experience Stress Differently Than Men Biologically
Another part of this equation is that both women and stress are inclined to affect the other on a genetic level. The hormones that make up female anatomy are significantly different from men. Meaning, the chemicals released in response to stressful situations between the genders, are responsible for different reactions. The chemical thought to be specifically responsible is oxytocin, the happy hormone.
When men are exposed to stress, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline to help navigate through the stressful scenario. The same is true for women. However, women tend to possess much higher levels of oxytocin as part of their normal stress responses. This happy hormone interrupts the usage of available adrenaline and cortisol in the brain.
So while it may seem like it’s suggested that women should cope better with stress, it’s quite the contrary. In reality, it simply means that women are designed, on a biological level, to manage multiple stressful events at once. Yet due to this, it takes much less to topple the balance and become overwhelming.
When natural feel-good hormones are depleted, many turn to abusing synthetic addictive drugs. Unfortunately, many of the responsibilities of a woman cannot simply be put aside for another day, such as childcare. The alternative, to self-medicate with illegal substances to cope, often allows for temporary relief or motivation, but ends with addiction.
Women Are Becoming More Open About Stress and Health
Anyone can argue that men and women both have stress in their lives, and they’d be correct. However, women with elevated stressors tend to open up more often than males during specialized therapy and rehab treatment. Fortunately, this contributes to having the most effective programs available to treat both stress and women’s health.
Women Face More Stress Due To Society’s Expectations
Then again, biological sex is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stress and women’s health. The reality of the matter is a combination of hormones and societal influence. Historically, women were expected to be the maternal creatures of the species. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. However, since the end of the 20th century, things have really begun to change.
Today, women are expected to continue to maintain households and raise children. However now, they are expected to do so while establishing complete financial independence. Being able to successfully live up to these expectations and remain in optimal health isn’t realistic. Even if it is temporarily attainable, sustaining this lifestyle long-term doesn’t contribute to the quality of their emotional health.
Unfortunately, many are left with no other option for their family’s sake. Even in situations where co-parenting occurs, it’s usually the heavier burdens that fall toward the woman. The woman is expected to provide more of themselves and maintain the stability of income. Any abrupt inconvenience could trigger the urge to resort to substance abuse or even relapse. Women and stress, especially in recovery, should be incorporating quality means to manage stress into their aftercare program.
Stress and Women's Mental Health
More than 3/4 of adults in the U.S. report symptoms of stress
Women with elevated stress are nearly 10% more likely than males to open up in therapy
Common Causes of Stress
Mental Health Issues: Stress vs. Anxiety
While stress itself isn’t necessarily considered a diagnosable illness, it certainly does contribute to deteriorating mental health. Not only can stress trigger mental illness, but also elevate the severity of symptoms. Women that are under increased pressure to perform are more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety. However, anxiety is not the only psychological health risk involving women and stress.
Women who are stressed out are more likely to self-medicate to cope with illnesses and their symptoms, such as:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- ADD and ADHD
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Personality disorders
Unfortunately, stress and women’s health are important factors when treating mental illness. Especially when addiction is involved, managing excess worry, pressure, or fear is going to be crucial to wellness. Addiction treatment programs that offer residential care allow for the most time to dedicate to mental illness along with addiction.
How Does Stress Contribute to Women’s Health?
Often when women are stressed out and overwhelmed but have no time available to decompress, self-medication seems reasonable. Depending on the symptoms of mental illness, the substance abused may vary. For example, women who are stressed out because they are too exhausted to get through the day, opt for stimulants.
While cocaine is an option, abusing this drug is usually more obvious and less regularly sustainable. Prescription amphetamines used to treat ADHD are more discreet, yet they are just as addictive. In contrast, women with anxiety caused by ongoing increased stress may self-medicate as well. Again, as opposed to more obvious drugs, misuse or illegal use or abuse of benzodiazepines is often suspected.
Sometimes these medications are legally prescribed for mental illnesses but become abused in situations with women and stress. Keep in mind that misuse of medications is still considered abuse, and dependency is likely after a prolonged time. Additionally, it may be more difficult to notice substance abuse that requires treatment. Getting involved in the lives of your loved ones plays a big part in noticing addiction, stress, and women’s health.
Important Things To Consider When Feeling Stressed
Because of the dangers of mismanaged stress and women’s health, developing healthy habits can help to replace the harmful ones. A few things that help to keep a cool head under pressure involve checking in with yourself. Then, if it ever feels like too much, know when to call for reinforcements.
There are things to remember when stress is beginning to weigh down, helping to keep in touch with mental health. Some things to remember about stress are:
- You are not as alone as you think you are, and everyone has felt this way before.
- Try using stress as motivation, as long as you can do so in a healthy and productive manner.
- Letting stress build up over a long period of time can lead to dangerous and desperate behaviors, like self-medication.
- Self-medication can easily and quickly lead to dependency and addiction.
- Left mismanaged stress and women’s health can begin to manifest physically and psychologically.
- There are healthy alternatives to decompress when stressed.
- When unhealthy levels of stress are unable to be managed, or when self-medication or mental illness co-occur, ask for help.
Every woman out there should never have to feel alone and stressed with nowhere to turn. Once addiction becomes a part of our lives, it can be hard to make the right choices. Getting involved in rehab that is complete with individualized programs offers unique therapeutic treatments for every woman in need.
Healthy Ways Women Can Decompress When Stressed
One of the best ways to decompress and use excess tension in a beneficial way is to use it as fuel. Some ways that women can utilize feelings of being stressed out to their advantage include:
- Allowing time to stop and observe each passing feeling. Use this time to practice mindfulness by incorporating meditation or breathing exercises into your routine.
- Do a workout, go for a run, or try yoga. Anything to get the body moving gives the mind time to process and release tension.
- Make time for sleep. During the night, our body decompresses from the day before. Adequate time for rest plays a major part in healthy levels of stress and women’s health.
- Do something you love. Whether it’s reading, taking a hot shower or bath, or even just lighting a candle. Doing something for you because you like it, can positively impact women and stress.
- Getting professional help. Let’s face it: If you’ve tried to manage your stress but can’t seem to get on track, you need assistance. There is no shame in that either! If you need help, ask for it.
Many women are living with crippling stress and addiction but feel like there is no way out. The pressure of everyday life drives so many women into situations and lifestyles of substance abuse or unhealthy conduct. Believe it or not, stressful situations can teach us a lot about ourselves and what we are capable of. Use the advantage of the opportunity to live sober, attend therapy, and learn from the experience.
Treatment Options Developed For Stress and Women’s Health
Thinking of having to take time off from work or be away from children for treatment, can add unwanted stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, addiction treatment centers for women offer programs like intensive outpatient care to relieve that pressure.
Although residential treatment is helpful for women that are in dangerous or abusive situations, it isn’t for everyone. During intensive outpatient rehab, stress and women’s health can be addressed while getting the same quality treatment for addiction. Hopefully knowing that everything they’ve worked for doesn’t have to be put aside for rehab is a stress reliever alone.
With programs like intensive outpatient or partial day, recovery can begin soon after detox. Giving women the care that they need doesn’t have to take them completely away from their obligations, jobs, or families. Rather, they are scheduled throughout their day, then return home after.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment is Essential For Women’s Health
Addiction, whether caused by stress or adapted for self-medication, can only be effectively treated if mental wellness is regulated. Managing stress and women’s health with underlying addiction and mental illness required treatment for dual diagnosis. In a professional addiction treatment center, dual diagnosis is taken seriously to achieve optimum wellness, and avoid relapse in sobriety. With the help of addiction therapists and counselors, women in need of care for dual diagnosis can be treated simultaneously in-house.
Getting Help to Reduce The Stress of Addiction For Women
The challenges that women face today contribute toward developing unhealthy coping mechanisms, like substance misuse and abuse. Women under increased and regular pressure without healthy outlets for release are more vulnerable to addiction. Sometimes stress comes up unexpectedly; for others, it builds up over time. The best thing any woman stressed out can do for herself is to get help to get sober.
Contact us to find out more about the most effective programs available to treat both stress and women’s health. Take this opportunity to learn more about yourself. Find out what you are capable of and how to manage stress in a healthy, sober, and productive way.