By: Alonso Chavarriaga
The Reason Women Drink in Secrecy
One of the biggest problems when it comes to women drinking is that most of it tends to occur alone and in secrecy. One documentary, Lipstick and Liquor, offers insight into the hidden alcohol abuse by women and encourages open discussions. Dr. Michael Baron, who is triple board certified in Psychiatry, Anesthesiology, and Addition Medicine, has been working with alcoholic women in an effort to pinpoint the source of the problem.
What Dr. Baron and other researchers have found is that many women are in the closet about alcoholism because there seems to be a lot of shame associated with it. “It’s the disease that really says to you, ‘You don’t have a disease,’ so there is a denial process where you don’t think you’re sick or functioning improperly,” explains Dr. Baron.
About 15 percent of women binge drink, which the CDC defines as four or more drinks in a two-hour period, at least once a month. Of the women who binge drink, nearly 14 million women do it three to four times per month. So many women are drinking heavily behind closed doors, and Dr. Baron believes it’s largely due to the negative stigma specific to women and alcohol. Men think it’s cool or fun to hang out with some buddies, watch a game, and devour a case of beer. Women, on the other hand, tend to drink around one and a half glasses of wine when they go out. For women, it’s not perceived as “cool” to down an entire bottle of wine or linger at the local bar. Dr. Baron puts it, “It’s like coronary artery disease; it’s always under recognized in women. “
The ‘P’ Word
This lack of attention from doctors perpetuates the illness, and women don’t get the right healthcare coverage because they aren’t expected to be ill with this type of disease. According to Dr. Pamela Peeke, host of the popular HER Radio talk show, “women have a huge emphasis on the P word: Perfect, as in the perfect mom or the perfect spouse.” Something shameful like drinking in the closet to self-soothe could ruin that perfect image, so it continues to remain hidden. The shame of drinking alone and in hiding will lead to more drinking, since it may be the only way you know how to handle the shame. Dr. Peeke notes this behavior can easily lead to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break out of.
If you believe you may have a drinking problem or know someone that does, Dr. Baron urges you to find help. “No one comes to treatment because they want to, but because they have to,” says Dr. Baron. Alcoholism is a progressive, potentially lethal disease that can affect men and women equally, and taking fast action toward treating this disease will help eliminate the stigma associated with women and heavy drinking.