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The Benefits of Same-Sex Recovery Programs

Not all recovery programs are the same. Some are different in terms of therapeutic modalities and holistic approaches. Others are better suited for a specific issue; some focus on addiction only, while others provide treatment for co-occurring disorders. As you explore your options for treatment, you might want to consider the differences between same-sex and coed recovery programs.


Differences in Addiction Between Men and Women


Addiction can be a different experience for men and women. Some differences relate to issues unique to each gender, such as physical tolerance to substances, societal pressures related to substance use, and underlying issues contributing to addiction. Due to these differences, some programs are men — or women — only to focus on these unique issues directly. Other programs are coed but offer gender-specific sessions to briefly separate men and women to tackle specific problems inherent to each gender.


Physical Differences of Addiction


Overall, due to biological differences, men generally have a higher tolerance to alcohol and drugs than women do. Men might require more substances to achieve the same effects as women. Differences in tolerance levels can cause men to use substances in more significant quantities and create a veil over their substance use issues. Men may be better at hiding their substance use, as the physical effects might not impact them as significantly as women.


Women, however, are more prone to experiencing cravings and relapse than men. The reasons might be related to the heightened sensitivity to the effect of drugs and alcohol because women generally have a lower tolerance. Women are more likely to experience a faster progression from initial use to developing a substance use disorder (SUD). Men are more likely to abuse substances over longer durations, possibly for years or decades, before identifying an issue.


Societal Expectations


For men, drinking or using drugs is sometimes viewed as a “right of passage.” Men might pressure one another to drink more to “man up” and “prove they can handle it.” While under the influence, resistance to peer pressure decreases, and men are more prone to making bad or dangerous decisions. The pressure to keep up while using drugs or alcohol can become tied to men’s self-esteem and manhood. They might feel less confident or like “less of a man” if they cannot drink or use as much as their peers.


However, women might be more prone to hide their substance use from others. Therefore, women might not be identified as having SUD or considered to have an issue. Data on SUD in women might be lacking due to the expectation that men will most likely indulge in substance use, and thus, men are often the targets for more research.

Underlying Issues of SUD


Men and women also vary in terms of the underlying issues driving addictive behaviors. Women are two to three times more likely than men to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Accounting for this difference might be the rates that women experience physical violence in intimate relationships; more than one in three women have been victims of violence at the hands of their partners. Women might feel safer in women’s only programs due to traumatic experiences often committed by men in their past.


Men and women also have differences in the types of mental health disorders they might develop. Women are generally more likely to develop eating disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, and borderline personality disorder (BPD) than men. Men, however, are less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues and more likely to die by suicide


Symptoms of underlying conditions are also different among men and women. Men with depression might be irritable, angry, or hostile, whereas women might suffer silently or become withdrawn. Although many symptoms overlap between genders, the variation in symptom expression results in an overall different experience in mental illness between men and women.


Is a Gender-Specific Recovery Program Right for Me?


Each person is unique in their addiction and recovery. However, due to many of the general differences men and women experience with addiction, gender-specific programs can increase the chances of relating to your peers. Men might need to learn healthy ways of expressing their masculinity and confidence, where women are more likely to need trauma-focused treatment programs.


Overall, the benefits of same-sex recovery programs involve increasing the odds that you will relate to the experiences of your peers in recovery. Group support is critical to success in recovery. When sharing your story or seeking guidance from peers, you might find that a member of the opposite gender does not understand what you are going through. 


Of course, similarities exist in the experiences of men and women, and each gender can learn from one another. Regardless, the decision is up to you — only you will know what is best for your treatment and continued recovery. 


While exploring treatment options for addiction, you might want to consider the differences unique to each gender relating to addiction. Men are more likely to drink or use substances as a way of fitting in or giving in to peer pressure. Therefore, men might need to discuss different issues related to setting boundaries and gaining confidence among their peers. Women are more likely to experience trauma, depression, and anxiety, choosing substances as a means of self-medicating these underlying issues. These underlying issues might mean that women can benefit from conversations from peers focused on coping with trauma, postpartum depression, and other issues driving substance use. Cornerstone Healing Center’s “Ready to Launch” program is geared to help young men in recovery. In contrast, our other recovery programs, like outpatient, professional, and partial-hospitalization, are designed for both men and women. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (800) 643-2108 to learn more.

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