Renaissance Ranch

Unique Barriers Women Face When Seeking Help for Addiction

Jun 13, 2024

There are barriers women face when seeking recovery from drug and alcohol use that are unique to their sex. Unfortunately, there is a social bias that shames women more than men when it comes to substance abuse. This stigma makes women afraid to admit to their addiction, and they hide their substance use from their friends and family.

So, what are these barriers to recovery? How do they affect a woman’s addiction? And what is the solution to lasting freedom?

Barriers Women Face When Seeking Help for Addiction


Social Perception: Men vs. Women

Society has some twisted views on what addiction means for men vs. women. When men falter and get addicted to drugs and alcohol, they lack willpower. Society expects them to drink. In fact, drinking someone else under the table is a sign of masculinity. They must be able to drink in large quantities yet never let it control them. Society is much more forgiving if a man gets addicted. He seems weak but not beyond saving.

When a woman falters, they lack moral decency. Women are often the caregiver in the home and are expected to keep it together while taking care of everyone around them. Society blames them for putting their children in an unhealthy environment, regardless of the cause. Society may label them as bad mothers who don’t deserve their children.

Is a woman’s addiction any more destructive than a man’s? Of course not, yet she carries the brunt of the guilt. Afraid to lose her children, she may hide her illness from friends and family that might have supported her through recovery. Shame and isolation are a nasty combination when it comes to addiction, and drug and alcohol use can quickly spiral out of control.

Child Care

Society may blame a woman for her addiction and for delaying seeking help. Yet, there aren’t many resources available to help her overcome her addiction if she has children and no one else is willing to care for them.

Childcare is so expensive that many mothers find themselves weighing the cost of seeking treatment and paying for childcare against their own health. Worse, they may hesitate to expose their addiction for fear of losing their children. With this fear on their minds, mothers may end up running from the very solution that will prove to the courts that they are taking responsibility and doing whatever is necessary to heal.

Rehab for mothers of minors must take this into account when designing their treatment protocols.


Women are more likely than men to use drugs and alcohol to treat symptoms of mental illness or trauma than men. Recovery gets complicated without an understanding of the underlying cause of the addiction. Women’s substance abuse treatment programs need to treat the underlying cause while they treat the addiction, or the patient will relapse. These causes may include:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: The patient goes through a cycle of obsessive thoughts that create extreme distress and uses compulsive behaviors to alleviate that stress. Compulsive behaviors often center around orderliness. Having anything out of order becomes distressing, and the patient can go to unhealthy lengths in order to control their perfect environment.
  • Anxiety: The patient has an overwhelming apprehension or fear about a real or perceived threat. Their emotional response causes a physical response, such as elevated heart rate, sweating, tense muscles, stomach issues, etc. These feelings interfere with the patient’s daily activities.
  • Mood Disorders: The patient experiences disproportionate depression, euphoria, or a combination of these sensations in such a way that interferes with their life. It can be triggered by real events or come out of the blue and last for days or even weeks at a time.
  • Personality Disorders: The patient develops a pattern of behavior that is both compulsive and outside social norms. It can affect how the patient interacts with others and deals with the stresses of life, even causing self-destructive behaviors that put them at odds with loved ones and society as a whole.
  • Schizophrenia: The patient experiences a fragmenting of the mind, making it difficult to distinguish between delusion and reality. Patients can hear voices, hallucinate, have difficulty maintaining rational thought, have disordered speech, and can become paranoid or secretive.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The patient has nightmares, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts, and emotions relating to a terrifying event they witnessed or experienced.

A women’s addiction treatment center needs to include the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders like these in order to help women heal. Otherwise, patients will return to compulsive use of drugs and alcohol or trade their substance use addiction for other self-destructive coping mechanisms.

Get Help Today

Though there are barriers to treatment and recovery for women, the rehabilitation industry is doing a much better job of recognizing these barriers and addressing them. It’s a good day and age to be seeking help because there are many more effective tools and resources for women than there have been in the past. If you’re ready to break free of addiction, contact our women’s addiction recovery center in Idaho.