Where does the root of drinking stem from?
This is a question that leads to many answers. One thing research tells us, is that women with alcohol use disorders may use drinking as a way to cope with unresolved trauma. Emotional trauma and psychological trauma result from extremely stressful events. Left unresolved, trauma can leave women with feelings of isolation and overwhelming anxieties. These feelings can have long-lasting effects which can be severe and carry into adulthood. There are a number of types of trauma, though this post will just touch on a few .
Women who are exposed to interpersonal traumatic events have a greater chance of alcohol-related consequences. Similarly, those who meet the conditions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to engage in heavy episodes of drinking. Studies show that women may use alcohol to cope with psychological distress and negative affect. These women have expressed symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder . Though women may use them to cope with feelings of distress, it is important to note that alcohol consumption or the use of other substances can increase the symptoms of depression and anxiety and actually worsen trauma symptoms .
Other sources of trauma that may increase alcohol use include, physical and emotional neglect, physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse and childhood trauma. More often than men, women tend to self-medicate or self-soothe with alcohol as a way to alleviate or escape memories and thoughts that are upsetting .
Will the COVID-19 Pandemic lead to more unresolved trauma and more drinking?
Certainly we will have to wait for the data to come in before we can assess the actual results of how the pandemic has hurt those with alcohol use disorders. But with what we know about traumatic events we can make some predictions and recommendations. We know alcohol use among women is increasing. We also know that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our economy and in some ways led us into a recession. Women are facing numerous burdens. During a time of uncertainty, women may be worried about employment or unemployment, housing, family safety and security, childcare, bills, food, finances, and a number of other stressors. With no one to talk to about how they are feeling, women who drink are at an increased risk of coping in unhealthy ways thus increasing their stress, anxiety, depression .
How do we help women cope without the alcohol?
It is important to acknowledge the burden and level of stress women are facing. While this pandemic may not be traumatic for some, others have experienced life-changing stressors, and we are still in the midst of it. It is important to share and talk about our experiences candidly. That may be with trusted family and friends, or with licensed professionals. During this time, many organizations are offering free and low cost virtual treatment options, there are online support groups and more. It is just a matter of a google search [4,5].
Without checking in with ourselves and the women in our lives, we may not resolve our traumas and begin the healing process. This can be done without alcohol. After all, when the intoxication from several glasses of wine wears off, the trauma is still there. It is time to find a permanent solution!
- Kaysen, D., Dillworth, T. M., Simpson, T., Waldrop, A., Larimer, M. E., & Resick, P. A. (2007). Domestic violence and alcohol use: Trauma-related symptoms and motives for drinking. Addictive behaviors, 32(6), 1272-1283.
- Frohe, T., Leeman, R. F., Cheong, J., Belton, D. A., & Patock-Peckham, J. A. (2020). Novel Associations Among Trauma, Mindfulness, and Impaired Control Over Alcohol Use. Mindfulness, 11(3), 606-614.