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

26.08.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Women’s alcoholism is much less common than men’s. Wife, mother, guardian of the hearth – how can she sink her problems in a bottle of alcohol? But statistics doesn’t lie: if 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 the 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 and her close ones face during a treatment?


Peculiarities of female alcoholism

drunkenness among woman

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

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

There was a difficult conversation with my mother. At first she denied everything, then 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 disease is curable. But many experts believe that alcoholism among women has a more unfavorable course and accelerated addiction compared to men. It 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] The data is obtained for the equal quantity of alcohol drunk daily.

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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 for women to take large doses of alcohol. They should raise children and take care of 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 turn for help, but not the addicted – she denies everything to the utmost. Often this is why addiction comes to chronic alcoholism, which is extremely difficult to cure. [2]

  1. Addiction is burdened by heredity

According to the data of 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 the bad habit. At the same time, it is psycho-emotional reasons that prevail. [3]

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

How does alcoholism occur in women?

booze and women

The main symptom of the development of serious alcohol addiction in both men and women is an increased interest in alcohol drinks. Everything can start with a couple of glasses of wine at dinner. But with each time the addict begins to drink more and more. The first sign is a sense of anxiety and stress without another dose of alcohol. One either says “stop!”, or goes on with this dangerous habit. 

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

  • desire for solitude;
  • search for any reason to drink;
  • excuses for the addiction by external factors;
  • constant mood swings – from fun to depression.

When a woman starts to drink she tries to preserve her social status for a long time, continues to take care of herself. She skillfully hides any external signs of the harmful habit under a layer of cosmetics on the 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. Such facts can be added to the external features of woman alcoholism :

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

Stage of female alcoholism

The pathological habit of a woman as it progresses passes the same stages as that of a man. The whole difference is in a more rapid development of pathology. 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 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 female beer alcoholism.

A person gradually loses control over the amount of drinking. The first physiological symptoms of female alcoholism are deterioration of appearance and memory disorders (alcoholic amnesia) that already appear at the initial stage.

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 feel better. The organism itself is already completely addicted to alcohol, there is a transition to stronger alcoholic drinks. Various diseases connected with the alcohol consumption in an excessive amount begin to develop.

In women and men, the second stage of alcoholism can last for many years. But women are much more likely to show signs of the disease in their behavior. She tries to hide her dangerous habit and increasingly becomes more isolated.

The third stage is chronic, severe, encephalopathic 

The chronic stage of alcoholism in a woman is formed during 10-15 years of constant consumption of alcoholic drinks. Physical addiction increases, there is a complete loss of control over the situation. A woman who is suffering from addiction will not stop at anything to get a drink. The personality is degrading. Memory, thinking, and intelligence are broken.

Urgent treatment: consequences of female alcoholism

abstinence syndrome

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

  1. A female body is “weaker” than male, so excessive use of alcohol will much faster provoke a development of diseases of the cardiovascular and sexual systems, liver and kidneys. At the last stage of pathology, health will be finally ruined. Life expectancy is declining. 5-10 years after the beginning of progressive alcoholism, a woman looks much older than her biological age. It suppresses her, and the stress involves her further into the addiction.
  2. A drinking woman closes up from her relatives. She is no longer concerned with the relations with her husband or the upbringing of her child. The main goal is to get the next portion of strong alcohol. If a man does not leave 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, he/she remains without love and care, which negatively affects his/her development. Women with severe alcohol addiction may be deprived of parental rights.
  3. Under the influence of alcohol, a woman does not control herself. This can lead to frequent sexual partner changes. She is no longer concerned with birth control, so there are frequent cases of “drunken” pregnancies. And drinking women in most cases have children with different developmental abnormalities.
  4. A woman with alcohol addiction completely falls out of society. Others condemn her behavior. The circle of friends narrows to the same sort of asocial persons.
Treatment of female alcoholism should be started as early as possible. And the responsibility lies on the close ones. According to doctors, most 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 in this – I just removed stress with a glass of wine after work. And when my husband left me, I slipped up. There were parties with friends, lonely evenings with a bottle. 5 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, lost my body shape. Almost all money I spend on alcohol. I just go to work for the sake of appearance – to earn money for alcohol.

A couple of years ago, I was hospitalized with alcohol 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’m either drinking 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 

Today, 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, comprehensive diagnostics of the patient is carried out initially. The stage of alcoholism and the degree of damage in various systems of the organism are identified, personal problems that led to the development of the pathological habit are studied. On the basis of the history collected, the doctor develops a further course of treatment.

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

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

An addict 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 due to drinking friends. [3] This is why it is said that women’s alcoholism cannot be permanently cured. An addict is literally in a closed circle – from the previous remission to the next.

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

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In the treatment of female alcoholism, methods of behavioral psychotherapy are actively used. They help form a conscious attitude in the patient to refuse the use of alcohol. 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: to enjoy life without chemical stimulators, to feel comfortable when conducting a sober way of life, to find rational ways to fight stress. This is a huge step in 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 refuse from 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 strict confidentiality mode. Specialists answer all questions and consult by e-mail, in online chats or over the phone.


  1. Tipologiya alkogolizma u zhenshchin: progredientnost, techenie, prognoz: posobie dlya vrachej, 2004 g., V. B. Al’tshuler.
  2. «Geneticheskie osnovy etiologii i patogeneza boleznej zavisimosti ot psihoaktivnyh veshchestv» (zhurnal «Narkologiya», 2016 g., №6), A. O. Kibitov.
  3. «Sovremennye predstavleniya o zhenskom alkogolizme», 2014 g., O. YU. Somkina (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/sovremennye-predstavleniya-o-zhenskom-alkogolizme-obzor-literatury).
  4. «Alkogolizm u zhenshchin», 1988 g., B. M. Guzikov.