Causes of Alcoholism in Women

There are many reasons why women start abusing alcohol.

The causes of alcoholism in women are varied, and this is a complex issue to understand. Women may begin drinking to excess due to stress, a history of sexual abuse or because of depression or anxiety. Genetics and environmental factors also play a part in whether women become alcoholics.

Six Alcoholism Risk Factors Every Woman Should Know

1. Stress

Many women feel overwhelmed at times by the weight of their responsibilities to their employers, partners and families. If they work outside the home on a full-time basis, they still shoulder the bulk of the work involved in keeping a household running smoothly. Some women are part of the "Sandwich Generation" and are caring for aging parents at the same time they are looking after their own children. Women may begin using alcohol as a way to cope with the stress caused by the many hats they are asked to wear in today's society. It gives them some temporary relief, but continuing to drink alcohol does not provide a solution to the issues they are facing.

2. History of Sexual Abuse

A woman who was abused as a child may turn to alcohol as a way to deal with the feelings of anger, sadness and shame that result from being victimized in this manner. In this situation, the woman is using alcohol as a type of psychological anesthetic in order to cope with her feelings about the abuse.

3. Depression

Alcohol is a depressant, but people who are feeling sad and empty inside often use it as a way to try to make themselves feel better. The person begins to feel worse and may use alcohol more often as a way to self-medicate. However, drinking has the opposite effect, and this pattern of behavior turns into a vicious cycle.

4. Anxiety

For some women, drinking alcohol is a way to help them regain a sense of control over their lives and relief from the racing thoughts that go along with anxiety issues. They may begin having a few drinks to take the edge off, and over time they come to rely on it to help them more and more.

5. Genetics

Studies conducted on families have found that alcoholism tends to run in families. If you are the parent, child or sibling of an alcoholic, you are between two and four times more likely to be one yourself than a person who isn't closely related to someone who abuses alcohol. This increased risk is partly due to a genetic vulnerability and partly due to environmental factors.

Studies have been conducted with identical twins who were raised in the same home, as well as those raised part. The results were very interesting: female identical twins (who share the same genetic makeup) tend to display similar behavior patterns when it comes to alcohol use.

6. Family of Origin's Drinking Habits

The family environment that people grow up in gives them messages about whether and when it is appropriate to use alcohol. A young girl who sees one or both parents drinking to excess may get the message that this type of behavior if normal and adopt the same behavior pattern when she grows up. The causes of alcoholism in women are complicated. Further research may indicate that what is inherited is a vulnerability to become an alcoholic, as opposed to a direct link. This means that not all women who have a family history of alcohol abuse are doomed to repeat it in their own lives.

Identify Your Own Risk Factors

Not all women who try to juggle family responsibilities with a career or deal with depression or anxiety in their lives turn to alcohol as a way to cope. However, knowing that you may be at risk for developing a problem with alcohol may help you to choose other, healthier ways of coping with these issues. If you feel a need to assess your current alcohol consumption, you can take the Am I an Alcoholic? survey or consult directly with a medical professional.

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Causes of Alcoholism in Women