Canaan, CT – Mother’s Day is May 10th, and while the holiday may look different in this new era of social distancing, it continues to be a time to celebrate mothers and their unconditional devotion to their families. Mountainside thanks mothers everywhere for their strength and dedication, and reminds moms that setting aside time for self-care can be the greatest gift they give their children and themselves.
For moms, the commitment to family can often lead to self-sacrifice, as they are often the first to offer support, but are less likely to invest in their own well-being. Social expectations to fit the mold of a “perfect” mother or wife often lead women to suppress concerns about their health or avoid admitting to problematic behaviors. Women today have added responsibilities and are likely to feel stretched too thin as a result – and that was the case even before a global pandemic began to further threaten their emotional and financial well-being.
Under quarantine, many moms have been disproportionately impacted by work-life imbalance, with telecommuting Americans working three hours more per day on average. They find themselves being both parents and teachers to their children while schools are closed. Some have been laid off from their jobs, and those who are lucky enough to still have jobs are working round-the-clock while raising restless families at home. These incredible demands, along with an all-encompassing sense of uncertainty, can increase moms’ chances of turning to maladaptive coping mechanisms, including drinking or using anti anxiety drugs such as Xanax to take the edge off. If left unaddressed, such habits can fuel mental health struggles and even lead to addiction.
Mothers may not fit common stereotypes about those who suffer from addiction, but a growing number of women are indeed becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol. Earlier this year, pre-pandemic, a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that alcohol-related deaths among women rose by 85 percent between 1999 and 2017. The mounting stressors caused by the coronavirus outbreak are anticipated to cause more women to participate in problem drinking, increasing their chances of alcoholism. Mountainside’s own data tends to support this, with 67 percent of female clients admitted to its detox facility in April naming alcohol as their primary substance of choice. Another key takeaway: female clients’ use of benzodiazepines – anti-anxiety drugs – more than quadrupled from the first quarter of the year compared to April, from 6 to 25 percent.
Addiction rates among women show no signs of slowing down, but less women are likely to seek treatment due to COVID-19. At Mountainside, female admission rates at the center’s inpatient programs have declined. Social distancing may complicate women’s ability to leave home for a rehab stay, but outpatient treatment programs offer valuable recovery resources and more flexible options for addicted mothers.
“The pressures of motherhood can take an especially heavy toll on women. Because women tend to feel guilty for addressing their own needs or for feeling like they are neglecting their families, they may dismiss getting treatment,” says Tracy Maestrone, Recovery Coach at Mountainside. “Many mothers are afraid to share their insecurities with others, which can lead to a spiral of isolation and exhaustion. Women need to know that there are services out there that do understand the special needs of women, including moms.”
In the face of both a pandemic and the addiction epidemic, women can receive the lifesaving services they need from the comfort and safety of their homes via telehealth. Virtual support groups can similarly reinforce to mothers that they are not alone, providing a sense of comfort while strengthening their bonds with others.
Those concerned about their alcohol or drug use should contact a local treatment center to inquire about online and in-person offerings.