We have become accustomed to linking alcoholism with despair. It’s often associated with a desire to drown sorrows and forget unhappy memories. While this is one side of alcoholism, excessive alcohol consumption is often used by successful people to mitigate stress.

Successful men have often been known to use alcohol in this way. It’s associated with machismo. Their self-image has been repeatedly boosted by screen idols like James Bond or John Wayne who are hard drinking men coping with the stress of hard lives.

Successful business woman drinks champagne

However, as women have become more successful in the business world, taking on bigger role in business and high finance, they are also bridging the gender gap in stress and alcoholism.

Today, it’s an everyday fact of life to come across women who are confident and capable lawyers, bankers, traders, or senior managers. One rarely thinks twice about it.

Unfortunately, women run into trouble as they strive for equality when it comes to drinking. This is not a result of social disapproval, but rather a result of biological differences. When it comes to alcohol, women are not able to tolerate its effects as well as men.

Sandy’s Place, a womens alcohol rehab facility explains how the effect of alcohol on women is having unexpected consequences. “Though a smaller percentage of women drink compared to men, women experience an equal or greater number of problems resulting from their alcohol use. The gap between the number of female drinkers and male drinkers has closed substantially, and the rate of alcoholism is growing among adult women—causing many women to lose their self esteem, relationships, children, and jobs as a result.”

Oblivion Drinking

There is even a popular new name for this type of drinking: called oblivion drinking. The term was first coined by psychoanalyst Jan Bauer in her book, “Alcoholism and Women: The Background And The Psychology.”

Oblivion drinking does not mean drinking to the point of unconsciousness. It actually means drinking to forget about the pressures and worries of the day or drinking to feel sleepy after working late into the night.

Oblivion drinking

A Typical Stress Pattern

Here is the typical pattern for women who are caught up in the superwoman syndrome of being a perfect wife, mother, and star performer at work.

After a stressful day, a woman goes to the refrigerator to pull out her favorite wine. It helps her forget that she started work early in the morning and worked late into the night. It helps her forget about housekeeping, preparing meals, taking care of children, performing well at work, and any nagging doubts about her ability to cope with life’s challenges.

Drinking Over the Safety Limit

Oblivion drinking is widespread, and intelligent, high-functioning women often drink over the safety limit to slow their busy brains. Many of these women are middle-aged who worry about their performance at work, the recession, and the challenging job market. They also worry about their children’s progress at work and their spouse’s stressful career.

A single glass of wine puts a woman over her daily recommended limit. If a woman drinks two bottles a week, she is well over the safety limit recommended by doctors.

Health Risks

What are the health risks of going over the safety limit?

Essentially, alcohol affects women more because of their biological makeup. The toxic effects of alcohol impacts their brains and vital organs faster and more powerfully. Since women have a lower tolerance for toxicity, those who drink well above the safety level on a regular basis are at a higher risk for liver disease, brain damage, cancer, and heart disease.

A Less Well-Known Reason Why Women Drink

In an article entitled Why Women Drink Too Much, author Gabrielle Glaser reviews the social pressures making American women to drink more than ever before. She believes that women may also drink because they feel disappointed for not being able to keep up with their dreams of high achievement in a more emancipated society.

“For a decade or more, their lives were on track: a solid career, a steady marriage, children,” she says. “They could do it all—manage their jobs and immerse themselves in their children. They would bake birthday cakes from scratch; they would go to every swim meet. They would be there, period. No Carnation Instant Breakfast mothering for them. But somehow, something changed. Those same young women, so full of determination, found themselves scaling back their dreams: for running the English department, for winning a Pulitzer, for becoming CEO. Aspirations somehow dropped to the bottom of the grocery bags that used to be plastic bottles. The women haven’t even made good on their intention.”

Recognizing Addiction

An addiction to alcohol is often hard to admit. For one thing, there is a lot of social acceptance about it. It’s easy to pass heavy drinking of as a lark. For another, it’s difficult to self-monitor intake. With high-functioning alcoholics, the usual warning signs—poverty, desperation, the collapse of significant relationships—are absent. When people do recognize addiction in themselves, it is usually after some kind of personal crisis serves as a wake-up call.