Excessive Drinking and Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholic Behaviors and How They Differ Between Men and Women

Posted on January 24th, 2017

Alcoholic behaviors run the gamut. Some alcoholics are very good at hiding their habits. And other people can drink a seemingly insignificant amount of alcohol and be falling-down drunk, yet not be considered alcoholics.

Recognizing alcoholic behaviors becomes harder still when the portrayal of alcoholism on TV and in movies is sometimes overwrought or sensationalist. This can give the false perception that someone with an alcohol problem is easy to spot.

That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people who are addicted to alcohol understand that they have a problem and are fearful of the consequences, but cannot quit. Instead, they take to hiding their alcoholic behaviors. These people are known as high-functioning alcoholics because they still manage to hold down a job, to get good grades and hide any emotional distress. And they do it with such success that no one would ever imagine that their habit of drinking beer every night was a problem.

But such a person is certainly an alcoholic, even if their alcoholic behaviors do not match up with what we have been conditioned to believe.

In fact, the differences in alcoholic behaviors don’t end there. Differences can even be found between men and women.

Women Feel the Effects of Alcohol Faster Than Men

Some physical differences make all the difference in how men and women handle alcohol. For one, women typically weigh less than men. Someone who is lighter in weight will always feel the effects of alcohol faster than someone with a heavier weight, due to the way alcohol is metabolized by the body.

In addition, men typically have more muscle and less body fat than women. Because muscle has more blood flow than fat, and alcohol is carried through the blood stream, alcohol becomes more diluted in a man’s bloodstream.

Of course, these differences are all relative, since some women are more muscular than some men, some men are very thin, and so on.

But the difference in hormones is a little harder to ignore between the genders. The hormones in a woman’s body during the luteal phase of menstruation (or certain contraceptives that mimic this phase) will cause alcohol to be retained in the body for a longer period of time. This means that some women may feel intoxicated for longer than their male friends.

Differences in Alcoholic Behaviors Between Men and Women

Signs of drunkenness don’t seem to be split along gender lines, although one recent small-scale study did note a more significant decrease in inhibition among men who were under the influence of alcohol than among women who had also been drinking.

How a person goes about handling or hiding their alcohol addiction is also completely individualized. Some people may have obvious problems with drinking as an emotional response, drinking because they have nothing better to do, drinking even though it is causing problems within relationships or with other responsibilities, and so on. On the other hand, some people are quite capable of hiding their alcoholic behaviors or normalizing them. These people are known as high-functioning alcoholics, and there is no evidence to suggest that either men or women are more likely to behave in a certain way as an alcoholic.

Resources

http://www.umd.edu/ocrsm/files/Alcohol_&_GenderDifferences.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15369556

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