Men and women are equal, but different.
Women have three unique challenges when living with a substance use disorder (SUD).
- The female body metabolizes drugs and alcohol more quickly and often at higher rates than the male body because of physiological differences.
- Approximately one in three women experience some form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, instigated predominately by men.
- Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD and trauma-related associations than men.
These three significant differences between genders mean women suffering from SUD often experience more complicated physical health issues and mental health conditions. Their SUD treatment must have individualized comprehensive care plans to ensure successful results.
What to Consider for Women-Based Treatment
If you or a loved one needs medically-assisted addiction treatment, choose a recovery center with established systems to handle women’s particular needs.
Gender-Specific Issue Groups
As noted above, women often experience a greater range of interpersonal trauma. Domestic violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and other factors are common catalysts to aspects of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. What’s more, certain issues, such as sexual abuse, often occur before the age of 18.
Women are less likely to report violence and abuse unless asked about it directly by a healthcare provider, so an adult woman using substances to deal with or mask such trauma has embedded behavioral patterns that must be identified and addressed. Individualized counseling and gender-specific issue groups provide a safe haven for expression, analysis, and healing.
Addressing Mental Health Disorders
Both men and women suffer from mental illness but only recently have researchers recognized the value of gender-based study and treatment. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) points out that unipolar depression—”predicted to be the second-leading cause of global disability by 2020—is twice as common in women.” And while alcohol dependence is more than “twice as high in men as women,” WHO notes, women are experiencing a sharp increase in alcohol-related deaths.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that women are “twice as likely as men to experience generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.” The APA research also indicates women have higher rates of phobias, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder; and more than 65 percent of women have eating disorders.
The APA says factors that compound women’s risks for mental health issues include income disparity, a higher rate of poverty, and violence. What’s more, “an estimated 65 percent of women are caregivers,” whether for children or adults.
SUD treatment must take into account that mental health issues—often referred to as co-occurring disorders—are present in women seeking recovery. Sobriety will only be achieved if treatment regarding these issues accompanies detoxification and behavioral changes.
Hormones and Pregnancy
The unique physiology of the female body presents additional challenges for SUD treatment. Hormonal fluctuations, often the punchline of bad jokes, happen all the time for a woman and continue to change throughout her lifetime.
Hormones already alter a woman’s moods, physicality, and reactions to stress, but drugs and alcohol compound these variances. Only recently has the medical community acknowledged the direct correlation of hormonal balance and mental health. It’s important for treatment centers to take into consideration a woman’s particular stage of life and related hormonal changes, so substance detox and therapeutic approaches cater specifically to her needs.
A pregnant woman seeking addiction treatment requires medically-supervised detoxification to ensure her and her baby’s health. She might also need access to a wide range of therapeutic options to handle a complicated emotional state presented by hormones and entry into recovery.
A Focus on Women at Willingway
We understand some of the specific challenges women face with substance use disorder, trauma recovery, and mental health conditions. This is why we have two dedicated extended care programs as part of our Statesboro, Georgia campus that ease women from acute treatment into a new life of stability, health, and hope.
The Women’s Residence is a program that continues inpatient rehabilitation services. Residents in this home participate in frequent individual and group counseling sessions and follow a similar clinical structure for accountability. Medical care is also available. In this program, women can return to daily life and routine gradually, attending 12-Step meetings in the community and maybe even re-entering the workforce on a part-time basis.
Lee Street is another extended services program available for women transitioning from clinical treatment. Care providers in this home help individuals learn practical recovery and life skills. There’s more opportunity for residents to integrate into the community through volunteering, 12-Step meetings, recreational activities, and employment. This home provides periodic individual and group counseling and peer support.
Let our family of experts provide you with the attention and care you need to realize your best self.