Women and Alcoholism
How a Glass of Wine a Night has Turned into an Addict
Wine is often considered a classy drink, a reward for the busy, sophisticated man or woman, something to be sipped, tasted, and enjoyed over dinner. But when a glass poured for decompression turns into one poured out of need, we’re no longer talking about a pastime — we’re talking about women and alcoholism.
When alcohol consumption gets out of control, many women find themselves on a dangerous path towards addiction. The occasional glass of wine shared with your partner or friends every now and again can easily escalate into a psychological necessity that’s interfering with your overall health and well-being.
Worried that your habit is slowly becoming an addiction? We’ve rounded up a list of the most common physical signs of heavy drinking, as well as the 4 stages of alcoholism and long-term consequences of alcohol abuse.
Common Symptoms of Women and Alcoholism
While the signs of heavy drinking can vary from person to person, there are a few common ones that you should look out for, including:
- Extreme weight loss or gain
- Brittle hair and fingernails
- Dry skin
- Flushing of the skin
- Broken facial capillaries, especially on the tip and sides of the nose
- Poor hygiene
- Intoxication-related bruises
- Breath smelling of alcohol
- Premature aging
But it’s not just the physical symptoms of women alcoholics you should be concerned about. Excessive alcohol consumption often leads to behavioral changes, such as:
- An increased amount of alcohol consumed as a result of increased tolerance — similarly, a decrease in the effects of alcohol use without substantial increases in the amount consumed.
- Significant hangovers marked by an increase in the time needed to recover from the after-effects of substance consumption.
- Reduced attention to and repeated neglect of personal and professional responsibilities.
- Drinking as a form of relaxation, or as a psychological aid against stress.
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to limit alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol consumption during the daytime — if you’re constantly making excuses to drink earlier in the day, your habit is morphing into addiction.
- Withdrawal symptoms — if you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning or go about your daily routine, then you’re certainly experiencing withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal usually include agitation, hallucinations, confusion, fever, and seizures.
- Blackouts — does it ever happen that you don’t remember the events of the previous evening? Blackouts due to alcohol abuse are very common and should be taken as a serious warning sign.
The Four Stages of Alcoholism
Contrary to popular belief, alcoholism isn’t created overnight — it’s the result of long-term alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, most women are unaware that they are crossing the line between habit and addiction until quitting substance abuse on their own becomes too difficult or nearly impossible.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of each stage of alcoholism can aid you in seeking help and addressing your existing — or soon-to-be — addiction.
Stage 1: Occasional Abuse and Binge Drinking
Most common in young adults, the first stage of alcoholism is a general experimentation with different forms of alcohol. While experimental drinkers do not regularly consume alcohol, they engage in “binge drinking.” Binge drinking involves consuming exceptionally large amounts of alcohol at one time — usually, four or more alcoholic beverages within a timespan of two hours.
While binge drinking is assumed to be reasonably safe since it happens infrequently, it can actually be extremely dangerous. In addition to coma and even death, the practice of binge drinking can be the primary trigger of long-term substance abuse as drinkers become dependent on the feeling it induces.
Stage 2: Problem Drinking
The experimental stage of alcoholism can easily escalate into problem drinking. Instead of drinking at parties every now and again, you start to indulge your newfound passion every weekend or even during daytime as well. Common reasons for daytime drinking include:
- An excuse to get together with friends
- To combat stress or unwind
- Out of boredom
- To banish feelings of loneliness and sadness
Usually, there’s a higher emotional attachment associated with regular alcohol use as compared to moderate drinking. For example, moderate drinkers will only have a glass of wine after dinner every once in a while, whereas a regular drinker will consume alcohol to feel good. At this stage, you’re liable to become dependent on alcohol for many aspects of your life and are at high risk of developing an addiction.
Stage 3: Alcohol Dependence
Many people tend to use the terms “alcohol dependence” and “alcohol addiction” interchangeably. However, they represent two different facets of alcoholism — you can be dependent on alcohol but not yet addicted.
The third stage of women and alcoholism, dependence, manifests through an attachment to alcohol that is seriously interfering with your life and daily routine. Once installed, dependence increases your tolerance to the substance and decreases its effects unless the amount consumed is increased. As a result, you’ll find yourself drinking larger quantities of alcohol to experience the desired level of drunkenness.
At the same time, you’ll start to develop common substance abuse symptoms, such as withdrawal.
Stage 4: Alcohol Addiction
When you reach the fourth and last stage of alcoholism, you no longer drink for pleasure. Alcohol addiction produces an intense psychological and physical craving for the substance. This carving does not go away until you start drinking again.
At this stage, your substance abuse is likely interfering with the personal, professional and social aspects of your life. Addiction may also cause compulsive behaviors and interrupt sleep patterns.
Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse
The harmful effects of alcohol on your body start from the moment you take your first sip. These include:
- Liver damage — your liver can no longer remove the harmful substances from your body.
- Heart damage — alcohol abuse is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease.
- Slurred speech — difficulties formulating proper sentences or expressing ideas.
- Blackouts — alcohol addiction might cause blackouts, which are times for which you cannot account or about which you have no recollection.
- Hallucinations — a typical effect of withdrawal.
- Fatigue — chronic alcohol consumption can cause tiredness and fatigue, which is a common symptom of anemia.
- Lung infections — due to your high alcohol consumption, your body will have a hard time fighting off bacteria and viruses. This can make you more susceptible to illnesses like tuberculosis and pneumonia.
- Birth defects — heavy drinking during pregnancy can increase your baby’s risk of developing conditions like fetal alcohol syndrome or mental defects.
- Thinning bones — higher risk of osteoporosis.
Acknowledging your problem with alcohol abuse is an important yet terrifying step to take. Don’t fight your battles alone — let the dedicated and compassionate professionals at Get Real Recovery help you. Contact Get Real Recovery here, or call our toll-free line for specialized support at 866-983-3651.