Talk to anyone who is in recovery from drugs or alcohol and most will be able to pinpoint when things started to go south. While this may not have been when they got sober, it is usually a good indicator of when it was time to quit. Addiction is a genderless disease however the negative effects for women can be different than those for men. Let’s explore addiction symptoms in women and put together a list of signs it may be time to seek help.
1. Isolation and Withdrawal
An early indicator of addiction in women is withdrawing from social activities and isolating from friends and family. Maintaining relationships becomes increasingly more difficult and more time is spent with those also in active addiction. Family, friends, partners, and children can feel alone and abandoned. As the isolation worsens, feelings of loneliness, guilt, and shame work to exacerbate the problem leading to a continued spiral into further drug/alcohol abuse.
2. Health Concerns
Women’s drug abuse and female alcoholism can have a direct impact on several areas of a woman’s health. Alcohol, opiates, and amphetamines can disrupt the menstrual cycle which can lead to the cessation of menstruation completely. Fertility issues can arise making it difficult or impossible to conceive. Women who are pregnant while using are especially vulnerable to complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and neonatal abstinence syndrome where the baby is born addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Heavy alcohol use in women affects estrogen levels which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells and increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
While women are already at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis, drug and alcohol abuse can contribute to bone density issues. Osteoporosis can develop even in younger females and lead to fractures, breaks, and an overall lower quality of life.
3. Mood Swings and Mental Health
Hormonal differences in women tend to create addiction-related mood swings and emotional instability in a manner different from men. Women in the grips of addiction may experience extreme shifts from happiness to depression or anger. This emotional yo-yoing with no apparent cause can lead to further substance abuse as attempts at self-medicating or controlling temperament are sought.
Women with substance abuse are also more likely to experience co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and PTSD. This can aggravate addiction issues and complicate treatment.
4. Self-Medicating for Stress or Trauma
Statistically women in active addiction are more likely than men to suffer from stress, trauma, or PTSD. Often drugs and alcohol become a way to cope with the sociocultural pressures of being a woman in today’s society and/or the trauma of past abuse or negative experiences. Self medicating is a major sign of substance abuse. Rather than developing healthy coping mechanisms or seeking out a women's treatment program, drugs and alcohol are used to numb and manage mental and emotional pain.
5. Neglecting Responsibilities and Priorities
Noticing a clear dereliction of work obligations, neglecting childcare responsibilities, experiencing financial difficulties, and an overall lack of being able to manage their lives is usually an indicator of addiction in women. Substance abuse will eventually consume everything in a person’s life; even those people, places, and things they hold dear. As priorities are pushed to the back in favor of continued use, a downward spiral of neglect, shame, and hopelessness begins.
Recognizing gender specific addiction symptoms is essential to early intervention. Providing women with the appropriate, gender-specific treatment and support options can be crucial for recovery. Access to services that understand and can mitigate the unique physiological and societal factors for women in addiction should be the number one priority when finding a treatment facility. Call Momentum Recovery today to learn more about the women’s treatment program and if it’s the right fit.