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Stress Can Lead to Excessive Drinking—But See Who It Affects Most

stressed woman drinking

Research shows that stress can make women consume alcohol excessively, but it's different for men. Men who experience the same stress level typically drink in excess when they have already started consuming alcohol.

The difference is this: stress alone doesn't drive men to excessive drinking, but it can do so to women.

Women are also more at risk of alcohol misuse.

However, men tend to resort to alcohol more than women do.

The Importance of the Research

You see, not everyone has the same willpower. Some people start drinking with the intention of having one or two drinks, and they stop when they do. But others just keep going without control.

This dysfunctional control is one of the earliest signs of alcohol abuse disorder. That fact is known.

Also, "We know that stress contributes to both impaired control over drinking and dysregulated drinking," says Julie Patock-Peckam, lead author of the study. "The role of stress in impaired control over drinking is [unfortunately] understudied."

Knowing how one's sex affects their response to stress and alcohol abuse can help them better avoid falling into such undesirable situations. For example, as a woman, you may rather choose another method of de-stressing that grabbing a bottle of beer if you know the latter can make you lose complete control. 

The Research

The study was conducted in a research lab simulated to look like a bar, having bar stools, bar-like conversations, and a bartender.

The participants included 105 men and 105 women of random backgrounds, with some experiencing stress and others not.

Firstly, half of the participants received alcoholic drinks (one per individual), and the other half got non-alcoholic beverages (three per individual). And then they were all allowed free access to all the alcoholic drinks for 1.5 hours.

The results show that stress led to excessive drinking in all participants.

However, stressed men who first received an alcoholic drink drank more than those who first got non-alcoholics. For women experiencing stress, what kind of drink they got first didn't matter. The stress, in itself, made them consume more than enough alcohol.

Better Ways to De-stress Than Drinking

There are more men battling alcohol misuse than women, but women are at greater risk of developing alcohol-related problems. This suggest how differently alcohol affects both genders, hence, it would be better if interventions for alcohol abuse were more gender-based than generic.

There are so many healthier ways to deal with stress, such as reading a nice book, self-care, meditation, exercise, or even singing. Alcohol shouldn't be your go-to solution whenever you feel stressed, depressed, or anxious. Granted, it can make you feel energized and high-spirited for a moment, but the after-math and long-term effects are pretty unpleasant. 

Also, when you always resort to alcohol when stressed, you may become addicted and it will affect your job, family, and relationships, leading to more stress in your life. A viscious cycle, a downward spiral.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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