Chemical Dependency in Women Vs. Men

Wayside provides gender-specific treatment because the needs of women struggling with chemical dependency are different from men. In addition, the factors that lead to substance abuse may also be different. In other words, what works for men may not work for women. Wayside supports women’s healing based on these differences.  We know that treatment focused on women’s needs are best for women.

First of all, women respond differently to their trauma experiences. Traumas such as childhood abuse and neglect, sexual violence and domestic abuse impacts the women's views of relationships and safety.  This often leads to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.  Women who are chemically dependent are also more likely to have a co-occurring mental illness. This also tracks back to the incidence of trauma and the development of adaptive coping strategies and symptoms.  Common mental health problems for women struggling with chemically dependency include; depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and eating disorders. 

There are other factors which uniquely impact women and can lead to alcohol and drug abuse. Some of these include a low sense of self-worth and esteem, and/or a major change in relationships. At this point, women need treatment that focuses on teaching healthy, alternative coping strategies for negative emotions, distress and conflict in relationships. Further, women are highly influenced and defined by the important relationships in their lives: with children, parents, family members, friends, and significant others. These relationships are often related to a woman’s substance abuse issues and need to be a focus in treatment.

Finally, women face many obstacles in accessing treatment, especially if they are pregnant or have children. It is common for women to fear what will happen to their family if they enter treatment. They might also be afraid of the stigma associated with parenting while abusing substances, so they may be more likely to try and self-manage their chemical dependency. Women may also fear who will provide quality care to their children while receiving treatment.

Without addressing these factors, women are much more likely to relapse. Wayside’s programming addresses all of these unique needs, and helps women find healing.  We also prioritize family services so that the family understands their role in the recovery process and the children receive the care they need in order to thrive.

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