Stress Can Lead To Excessive Drinking In Women: Help Is Here

Stress Can Lead To Excessive Drinking In Women: Help Is Here

Women are more likely than men to experience high stress levels, and stress can drive them to excessive drinking. Here are some healthy ways to cope with stress.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : December 17, 2021 11:11 AM IST

Stress is one of the biggest issues affecting people across the globe today. If stress becomes chronic, it can lead to a number of more serious complications such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but not all experience stress the same way. Research suggests men and women tend to react differently with stress, with the later more likely to report severe stress and related problems. A new study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors has also shown that stress alone can drive women to excessive drinking, but not men.

Lead author Julie Patock-Peckham, assistant research professor at Arizona State University ASU, noted that the role of stress in impaired control over drinking is understudied, especially in women.

Stress contributes to dysregulated drinking

In the study, the participants (105 women and 105 men) consumed alcoholic drinks in a simulated bar while experiencing stressful and non-stressful situations. Exposure to stress led to heavier drinking in women, regardless of whether they started with alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink. But men who experienced the same stress only drank more than intended when they already had consumed alcohol.

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This shows that women just needed the stress to drink more but men needed the push of already having alcohol on board, stated Patock-Peckham, who leads the Social Addictions Impulse Lab at ASU.

Both genes and the environment play a role in problematic drinking. While nothing can be done about the genes, we can intervene with the environment. Stress and excessive drinking are tightly connected, and stress is something we can manipulate, he added.

The study also underscored the importance of studying sex differences in alcohol consumption.

Tips to deal with stress

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and restrictions have further increased stress and anxiety among people worldwide. Feeling lonely, isolated and stressful? Below are some healthy ways suggested by the US CDC to cope with stress during the pandemic:

  • Try to limit use of phone, TV, and computer screens in a day, and reduce your consumption of news stories as hearing about traumatic events constantly can be disturbing.
  • Eat healthy and well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
  • If you feel stressed out, take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  • Make time to unwind, relax and do things you enjoy.
  • If you're feeling emotional, talk to people you trust (a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor). Share your concerns and tell them how you are feeling.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use as they can increase the stress you are already feeling.

But if problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, the CDC suggests talking to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.

Stress is a normal feeling, and everyone feels it from time to time. But too much stress or chronic stress can take a toll on your mind and body, putting you at increased risk of many health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment. Therefore, it's very important to learn healthy ways to cope with life stressors.