The signs of alcoholism in women are not always the same as they are in men. Frequently women experience long-term damage more quickly than men.
Previous studies have found that women who drink face a greater risk of developing diseases related to alcohol abuse — such as liver disease, heart disease, cancer and particularly breast cancer — than men who drink similar amounts or even more.
In two US studies it was found that women tend to develop brain “shrinkage” and damage to their memory capabilities much faster than their male counterparts who drink.
Dr. Daniel W. Hommer and his colleagues at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry (2005) that women’s brains are more vulnerable to the damage caused by alcoholism. The study is the first to show distinct gender differences in the brain “shrinkage” that is common to alcoholics.
Female alcoholics are at a much higher risk for dementia in their later years. Studies show that too much alcohol can cause the part of a woman’s brain that solves puzzles, does mechanics, or navigates maps to slowly deactivate. They have trouble doing math problems or figuring out complex problems. Everyday issues can all of sudden become insurmountable.
So, what are some of the signs of alcoholism in women?
- First of all, there will be certain health problems that will arise. Nausea and headaches are some of the first. These symptoms in turn affect a woman’s relationships, both personal and professional. Her work will suffer; her behavior will change.
Naturally the longer alcoholism occurs, the more risk for fatal diseases. In women, one drink per day or up to 12 a week is considered normal (UK maximum guide is 14 units per week for a woman). But if you are drinking more than this, your body is building up a resistance. It will take more and more drinks to actually make you drunk.
- Another sign of alcoholism in women is constantly excusing how much they drink or even why they drink.
Most women begin drinking because of some sort of emotional problems. Perhaps they’ve recently lost a loved one or suffered from a bad relationship. Maybe they don’t get along with their family.
- Women usually drink in solitude. If you know a woman who is socially isolating herself from family and friends, then there may be a problem to look for.
- Abnormal behavior, blackouts, depression, insomnia or sleeping too much, aggression, and violent mood swings are just a few more signs of alcoholism in women (and often men, too.)
- Weight gain, especially in the face. Often referred to as ‘moon-face’. This can occur even if the appetite is suppressed and other parts of her body are becoming thinner.
The first step to getting help is, of course, recognizing that you have a problem.
- Ask yourself, do you have to have a drink to get any work done?
- Do you continually have the urge to drink?
- Do you start to tremble when you resist the urge to drink?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it is time to get help. As usual my advice is to visit your doctor and be honest about your concerns. There are lots of things you can do to help yourself but first you must seek an expert medical opinion. Support from family and friends is helpful and maybe joining a support group of people going through the same thing would also be beneficial.
Once you are able to recognize the signs of alcoholism in women, you will be better able to help yourself or those around you.