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If your spouse is battling an alcohol use disorder you are no doubt very worried for her physical and mental health. Learn how you can help your alcoholic wife.
When most people think about the disease of alcoholism, it is often assumed it’s the husband with the problem. While women alcoholics are less common, there are plenty of alcoholic wives in need of support. Alcohol affects women differently than men, and the barriers to treatment are different, too. Read on to learn more about how to help an alcoholic wife.
Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol dependence is a serious disease that impacts mental and physical health, relationships, career, and finances. Becoming dependent on alcohol means that the brain has been altered over time in response to exposure to alcohol. A sign you have become dependent on the substance is when you have withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms emerge when the effects of the alcohol wear off:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Hand tremors
Alcohol addiction is the most severe form of AUD. Addiction is both a behavioral disorder and a brain disease. When someone acquires a substance addiction they experience a loss of control over the compulsive drinking. They are not able to quit drinking on their own. The effects caused by the drinking hijack the brain’s reward system and hold the person captive in the addiction cycle.
This loss of control is the main difference between addiction and dependence. Regardless of the negative consequences that touch every aspect of the person’s life, they continue to drink anyway. This also explains the relapsing nature of alcoholism.
Women and Alcoholism
Alcoholism does not care what gender you are. Alcohol is a toxic substance and has the potential to cause severe harm, and even death, to both men and women. The way that alcohol affects women is different from men, however.
It is a fact that women are drinking more alcohol in recent years. In 2019, 8% of women in the U.S. had an AUD. In fact, about 13% of women report binge drinking about four times a month.
Women metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than men, meaning alcohol can build up in the system. A woman’s body has a higher fat content, which leads to higher blood alcohol content than men. Also, women become addicted to alcohol at a faster rate than men, although their relapse rate in recovery is lower.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
The CDC has set alcohol intake safety guidelines. It set the limit for safe consumption at one drink per day for women, compared to two drinks for men. When that limit is exceeded for an extended period, it raises the risk of becoming dependent or addicted to alcohol. Also, there is no safe limit for drinking while pregnant.
The NIAAA states that AUD is staged from mild to severe based on the number of signs and symptoms that are present.
Symptoms of alcoholism—for women and men—include:
- Increased tolerance leads to higher consumption.
- Inability to control or stop drinking, even when you want to.
- You obsess about drinking, about getting it, and then recovering from its effects.
- Hiding alcohol; lying about how much you drink.
- Having blackouts.
- Neglecting responsibilities.
- Drinking interferes with work and relationships.
- You isolate or withdraw from friends and family.
- You engage in high-risk behaviors, such as drinking under the influence.
- You keep drinking even with mounting problems.
- Have withdrawal symptoms when effects wear off.
Adverse Effects of Alcohol on Women
Women who abuse alcohol are putting themselves, and their babies, at increased risk during pregnancy. Drinking during pregnancy increases the risk for stillbirths, early labor and birth, birth defects, and learning disabilities.
The most severe condition is called fetal alcohol syndrome. This can result when the baby is exposed to alcohol in utero and can cause very serious outcomes. These may include facial deformities, vision and hearing problems, small head size, heart defects, cognitive deficiencies, and more.
Non-gender specific effects of alcoholism include:
- Liver disease.
- Kidney disease.
- Brain damage.
The CDC reports that alcohol abuse in women leads to higher liver disease rates than men. Also, drinking does more damage to both the heart and the brain in women compared to men. Women with an AUD also suffer higher rates of sexual assault.
Depression and Alcoholism in Women
Women are more prone to depression, as well as being more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. A woman struggling with depression may self-medicate with alcohol, using it as a coping tool. While this may relieve symptoms for a while, in the long run, it increases the risk of developing an AUD.
A dual diagnosis is the presence of both a mental health disorder and an AUD. The dual diagnosis of depression and alcoholism in women is a serious and complex condition. In fact, this combination may vastly increase the risk of suicide.
Gender-Specific Barriers to Treatment
Women often avoid seeking treatment for an AUD. The main roadblocks to treatment are slightly different for women, and include:
- Parenting obligations. They worry about not being able to find childcare in their absence while in rehab.
- Being unable to afford rehab. The cost of rehab may seem to be out of reach.
Treatment for Alcohol use Disorder
A husband may be distraught seeing his wife battle alcoholism. He can support her by guiding her to a treatment program where she can detox and rehabilitate. She will engage in the following treatment elements:
- One-on-one therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Family therapy or couples therapy.
- Addiction education.
- Relapse prevention planning.
- Life skills training.
- Holistic activities.
If your alcoholic wife is ready to get sober, that is amazing news. Reach out today to a couple’s rehab and begin the recovery journey together.
Capo by the Sea is a Leading Treatment Center for Alcohol Use Disorder
Capo by the Sea is a premier addiction recovery center that specializes in couple’s rehab. If one or both partners struggle with an alcohol use disorder, our couple’s program can help you. We combine evidence-based treatment with couple’s therapy and holistic methods for excellent results. Call us today at (888) 529-2114.