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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/196978
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- Women who drink: a study of mature aged women who misuse alcohol
- Monteith, Rosalind H.
- This study aims to explore the subjective experiences of mature aged women who misuse alcohol. Specifically the goals are to gain an understanding of how the women viewed themselves, how they experienced and made sense of their alcohol use, their experiences of seeking help for their alcohol misuse, motivation to quit or reduce their drinking and possible barriers to seeking and receiving help. An overarching goal is to gain greater insight into the factors that make mature aged women vulnerable to substance misuse and how detection and treatment may be facilitated for such women. The sample used in this study consisted of nineteen middle-class women between the ages of forty and sixty. All of the participants were volunteers who self-identified as problem drinkers. The women were interviewed using a semi-structured format. The data was analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. A number of findings emerged from this study. First, due to negative relational images that were possibly formed in childhood, the participants brought a sense of worthlessness and powerlessness, as well as mistrust of others and a fear of vulnerability, into their current relationships. This creates disconnection in family relationships, which can make women vulnerable to alcohol misuse. This progression of disconnection leads towards increasing isolation. Next, as a result of such isolation, it appears as though the women who participated in this study felt a deep sense of alienation from both the self and from others, which manifested through intense feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and worthlessness. Such feelings are strongly linked to the use of avoidant coping mechanisms. The participants in this study seemed to use alcohol as their primary coping strategy. However, it seems that using alcohol in order to cope created more problems than it actually solved; it could be liked to solving a problem with a problem. As women avoided coping with their problems they seemed to lose the capacity to cope and as a result their lives became unmanageable to a point where they could not longer deny their difficulties. With regards to seeking and receiving help for alcohol misuse, it appears that the stereotypes associated with female alcohol misuse pose the biggest barrier to seeking treatment. Because these stereotypes are at odds with the real experiences of the women who participate in this study, they were less likely to identify their alcohol misuse as a serious issue until their lives had become completely unmanageable. The stereotypes also tend to lead to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of the problem by health professionals. Finally since such stereotypes also create stigma around female alcohol misuse, there was a significant amount of guilt and shame associated with the participants’ drinking, which created a tendency for the participants to hide their drinking, which means it took longer for women to seek out help. With regard to treatment for alcohol misuse it appears that the most effective forms of treatment are those that focus on self-awareness, that promote growth-fostering connection, and that provide a safe and empowering environment, in which women are able to explore their emotional experience and to reach out for help. In order to recover, women must move from a place of isolation and pain to one of mutuality and relational resilience.
- Publication type
- Thesis (DPsych)
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
- Publication year
- Alcohol; Alcohol misuse; Mature-aged women
- Australasian Digital Theses collection
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2011 Rosalind Heather Monteith.
- Thesis Supervisor
- [Roger Cook]
- Thesis Note
- [A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Psychology (Counselling), Swinburne University of Technology, 2011.]
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