Anxiety, Alcohol and Australian Women
One third of Australian women are considered high-risk drinkers, yet women are unlikely to seek help specifically for alcohol. This means that the women you work with, have lunch with or care about may well be silently struggling with an overuse or misuse of alcohol.
Often women’s use of alcohol can start as a social activity, move to an occasional method of stress relief and then become an unhealthy habit which overwhelms them.
Research for High Sobriety, a book by Jill Starktook about her year off alcohol, reveals the experience of many Australian women. Many women who began binge-drinking in their teens or 20s assumed they would stop when they had children yet turned to a glass of wine to manage their stress and found their drinking starting earlier and earlier in the day.
“We need to encourage young women to look at other ways to relieve stress,” Jill told Emma Reynolds, report for News.com.au. “Women have more anxiety issues relating to their self-esteem and gain more confidence from drinking.”
According to Beyond Blue, women experience some mental health problems (including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress) at higher rates than men. In fact, 1 in 5 women in Australia will experience depression and 1 in 3 women will experience anxiety during their lifetime. Unfortunately, women will often use alcohol as a way of self-medicating anxiety or mental and emotional distress even though alcohol itself has depressive effects and can perpetuate the problem.
Against this background then, it’s not surprising that the misuse of alcohol by educated women in their 40’s and 50’s is growing. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed it was particularly women in law, education and finance who are statistically more prone to consuming hazardous amounts of alcohol on a regular basis.
Associate Professor Tim Slade, lead author of a study by UNSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre said that women are “more likely to seek help for almost any problem, but not alcohol”.
It’s important then that we create a culture of care and acceptance for women who may be at risk of alcohol misuse. A shame-free approach recognises that alcohol misuse is a symptom of a health or wellbeing concern and getting help is a sign of strength and wisdom.
Six questions to ask yourself about your drinking habits:
- Do you ever feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking?
- Do you ever hide your drinking or lie about how much you drink?
- Have you ever had a friend or family member express concern about how much you are drinking?
- Do you feel that it is impossible to relax without drinking alcohol?
- Do you have memory lapses or black out making it difficult to work out what you did while drinking?
- Do you ever have a drink and end up drinking more than you intended?
If, after answering these questions, you think you might be at risk of alcohol misuse, please talk to a trusted friend and a health professional. Getting help early can prevent significant health concerns developing.
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