Some learn to handle the stress in healthy ways, but others may find themselves turning to alcohol.
If you find yourself reaching for a bottle when life gets tough in the parenting trenches, now is a good time to evaluate your behavior… before it gets out of control. Dr. Brittany Thomas-Ottino, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and program director at the Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Springfield, Illinois, sheds light on this important topic.
Although parenting does not directly cause alcoholism (whew!), it can absolutely contribute to a mom’s increased stress level. One of the biggest challenges a mom faces is managing daily stress which can include crazy schedules, overlapping commitments, discipline problems, financial concerns and medical issues. When a mom doesn’t handle stress effectively, she may be susceptible to alcohol abuse. "The consumption of alcohol, a depressant, slows down body functions and makes most individuals feel more relaxed," says Dr. Thomas-Ottino. "Physical tension in the muscles may relax and alleviate pain or bothersome cramping, anxiety about a hectic schedule may temporarily decrease, heart rate may slow down, and a racing mind may be more at ease for sleep."
While many moms could benefit from a bit of relaxation, abusing alcohol to get there is never a good option. "Both independently and when combined with many prescription and over-the-counter medications (OTC), the effects of alcohol can be extremely dangerous and in some cases even lethal," says Dr. Thomas-Ottino. "Parents need to know their limits, be able to identify signs that they are reaching those limits, and have a plan to manage once the limit is reached." For most moms, eliminating stress is virtually impossible so having a keen awareness of anxiety levels and a network of either professional or personal support will help avoid the pitfalls of addiction.
Alcohol abuse can creep up sneakily but there are definitely warning signs attached to this addiction. If alcohol plays a significant role in a mom’s life, a serious problem could be on the horizon. According to Dr. Thomas-Ottino, "Warning signs include the inability to deal with stress that becomes disabling or interferes with daily functioning without drinking, fluctuating emotions or ongoing depression, hostility and/or resentments toward children or partner, persistent headaches (this could be indicative of other medical issues as well), cravings for alcohol that may be associated with negative thoughts or events involving one's family or parenting responsibilities." Excessive drinking leads to abuse so moms need to be aware of their consumption as well as their attitude and behaviors toward alcohol.
Time is truly of the essence when it comes to abuse — of any kind. Given the prevalence of available resources to help battle alcoholism, help is accessible to most moms. "Our daily responsibilities as a parent are often overwhelming, and affect the lives of others — our children," says Dr. Thomas-Ottino. "If a woman begins to recognize that she is becoming dependent on alcohol or drinking excessively, then she may be placing her own children at risk." Moms have so many options when it comes to seeking help including peer support via online forums, speaking with a healthcare professional, confiding in family and/or friends, 12-step programs and clinical rehabilitation programs.
For more information on alcohol abuse and/or treatment, visit the Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment website or call their 24-hour helpline at 877-505-HOPE (4673).
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