Men and Addiction
Addiction affects men and women differently. Statistically men are more likely to become addicted than women – why is that?
For a start, men are more inclined to indulge in behaviour deemed to be risky. In fact it’s encouraged in men and can be seen as a need to prove their manliness – isn’t it great I can drink 20 pints!
Often, it’s thought asking for help is spineless and men might turn to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Men aren’t supposed to show emotion, so being exposed to trauma or grief can be a reason to turn to substances and escape from their emotions.
Here are just a few examples of addictions:
Men are twice as likely to binge drink than women.
In the UK, binge drinking constitutes drinking 8 units in one session. This is the same as 2 1/2 pints of 5% beer.
Do you find this surprising?
It seems quite a small amount, but it’s the negative impact on your body and brain that can cause issues such as putting strain on the liver, becoming emotional and impairing judgement.
Interestingly it’s men in the 55-64 age group that drink more than the recommended alcohol guidelines.
Alcohol is a sedative and when it enters your system your brain releases your stress hormones, which include cortisol and adrenaline, to counteract the chemicals in your body. All these chemicals are processed at different times, so when you wake up in the morning they’re out of sync and although the alcohol might be out of your system, the stress hormones are still there. This is why you can feel really anxious and upset the day after the night before.
Your brain then thinks, last time I was feeling upset about something I had a drink and I survived and nothing bad happened, so do you know what, I just might have a drink to make me feel better.
It starts to become a vicious cycle as your brain easily forgets the bad bits through a bias in the brain to only remember the good bits of drinking, plus the anticipation of feeling better, even though it’ll only make things worse.
Why is gambling more prevalent in men than women?
Men are 6 times more likely to be problem gamblers than women. It’s a stereotype that men hang out in betting shops, although online gambling can also be a problem. Men are more prone because they tend to be sports fans and betting on games or races and supporting their team is common.
Men can also feel more responsible providing for their family and there’s also the hope that the next bet will be the big winner and their family will be happy with the extra money.
Men can also be more compulsive when they’re feeling stressed, so might just take that risk in the hope of winning.
According to a recent NHS study drug use in men is higher than in women, especially for cocaine, ecstasy, hallucinogens, ketamine and cannabis (amongst others) with men being twice as dependent on drugs than women.
74% of drug use hospitals admissions are men and 72% of all drug poisoning and misuse deaths are men.
Again, the main reasons for this is that men are more like to engage in risk taking behaviour, and have less insight into their health and wellbeing when compared to women, who have more shame in taking drugs.
Often men find it difficult to ask for help and explain their emotions and feelings, whether it’s with friends, family or health professionals. This can then lead them to seek substances as a way of coping with, blocking out and numbing the pain or problems. Of course, it just makes matters worse because they will still have the same problems but now they also have an addiction to contend with.
Warning signs that men might need help are depression, anxiety, abrupt changes of mood, withdrawal from family and friends, fatigue or memory issues amongst many others.
Also, the health risks associated with addiction are more prevalent with men such as organ failure, depression, accidents through reckless behaviour such a driving, increased aggression and ultimately death by suicide. Seeking help early could avoid these issues.
If you feel concerned about changes in a man in your life, ask them if they’re ok.
Hypnotherapy and Addiction
In my clinic I see many people for help breaking addictions with great success. The reason it works so well with men is that they don’t need to talk about their feelings or dwell on their emotions or the problems.
Instead, we talk about ways to help them move forward and make the changes in small manageable steps so they can regain control of their addiction instead of their addictions being that all-encompassing issue. In fact often we don’t even talk about the addiction because making other small changes can help you to have hope and realise there are other options.
Helping men to be solution focused and getting their lives back on track means they are able to cope better, make better choices, and feel motivated to be the best versions of themselves.
Find our more about the impact of alcohol addiction here: https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/fact-sheets
About the Author: Carmen Harrington practices from her therapy room in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. As someone who has struggled with confidence and anxiety in the past, she knows how positive and lifechanging hypnotherapy can be. Carmen’s specialties include: Anxiety, Confidence, Addictions, Teenagers, and Phobias.
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