Because they are thirsty? Didn't realize this is a problem--article attributes it to "identity frustration." http://www.app.com/story/life/wellness/2015/06/15/lesbians-alcohol-abuse/71257832/ For years, academic research has shown that lesbian and bisexual women abuse alcohol at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts. Why? Amelia Talley sought an answer in a 10-year study of several hundred women, the results of which are published in this month's issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Talley, an assistant professor in Texas Tech University's Department of Psychological Sciences, found an apparent culprit in what might best be called identity frustration: Women who feel a disconnect between who they are attracted to and how they identify themselves. "In psychology, it is commonly believed that humans have a basic need for consistency," Talley said in an email. "In general, acknowledging an apparent disconnect between one's beliefs and behaviors can increase feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Alcohol is a drug that may be particularly useful to avoid or distract yourself from focusing too much on yourself or being intensely introspective." Such identity frustration might be more common in nonheterosexual women than men, Talley said, because women are more likely to experience sexual fluidity — changing or evolving orientation — over the course of their lifetime. "Sexual fluidity is also apparent in men, but not to the same degree as it seems to be in women," Talley said. "This may be due to gender-based double standards, wider allowances for the expression of female sexuality, inherent biological differences, and a host of other possibilities that are still being examined scientifically." Other factors Clinical social worker Carolyn Bradley, an associate professor of social work at Monmouth University, has 30 years experience in addiction recovery services. "I have worked with women who were dealing with coming to terms with being a lesbian," she wrote in an email. "Many of these women had been married and some had children. As these women explored the lesbian community, for some, their consumption of alcohol increased. "How is this experience explained? Talley uses one theory," Bradley continued. "There are certainly alternatives, such as minority stress theory, which has also been used to explain high rates of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and even obesity. An additional explanation may be found in the social culture of the lesbian community, which still is centered heavily in the gay bars despite the growth of LGBT community centers offering alternative, nonalcohol centered social experiences." Bradley's experience has shown that for lesbian and bisexual women, the alcohol problem may be temporary — and triggered by the stress of the coming out process. "For a certain percentage, due to other factors such as a ... family history of alcoholism, the problem may be long term in nature," Bradley said. Older lesbians at greater risk? Another influencing factor for alcohol abuse was age, Talley said. Older lesbian and bisexual women showed to be at greater risk for hazardous drinking. Clinical acceptance of sexual fluidity is relatively new, Talley said — perhaps too new to assuage the mindset of those of a certain age. "Older women who have always viewed their sexual identity one way, yet begin to acknowledge attractions toward both genders later in life, may have more to grapple with," she said. "Our findings suggested that ... may lead to greater risk of hazardous drinking, compared to a younger woman in a similar situation, who may often be given more leeway for their sexual explorations." Bradley agreed that age can be a factor. "The Gay Pride movement began in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots in New York City," she said. " "Women coming of age prior and just after that time had a very different experience of coming out versus women coming out today. Homosexual behavior was illegal and considered a psychiatric illness. People could be jailed or committed to psychiatric hospitals. It was not uncommon to lose your family, your employment or housing if your sexual identity became known. "The stress associated with coming out for this generation was and still is very different due to the messages regarding homosexuality that they grew up with and the experiences of the cost of living as an openly gay or lesbian person in that era that they may have experienced." The bottom line: As much as sexual orientation is an individual matter, one's feelings about their orientation can largely be shaped by the views of others. It's about support, not sexual orientation "This is a topic we discuss heavily in our same-sex household. Why is it that alcoholism is synonymous with being gay?" said Nicole DePresca of Freehold, who has been with her wife, Denise, since 2003. "We often wonder why neither of us went down that path. To us, the answer is quite simple: We were able to stay grounded because we had tremendous support from our family and friends who fully accepted our orientation." Not everyone has such support. "It is not that lesbians are inherently more likely to drink, it is that any individual is more likely to drink when their life doesn't fit with societal norms," DePresca said. "The pressure of living in a world that doesn't fully accept you would cause anyone to turn to vices to cope. This would be true not just in the gay population, but individuals who experience depression and anxiety for any reason. We feel that this link between alcoholism and being gay will dissipate when people feel comfortable in their own skin as equal members of society." Talley and her team plan to do follow-up work. In the meantime, she hopes this study will let people know that sexual fluidity "is common and becoming increasingly so" and embracing it is crucial to one's mental health. "(As a society) we don't leave a lot of room for fluidity. We're very binary," said Andrea Bowen, a transgender woman and the executive director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's statewide advocacy and education organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "You're either gay or you're straight. You're male or you're female. We don't leave a lot of open space for people to be in between. "So for me, it's just another one of those indications that we have a lot of distance to travel before people really do feel comfortable being themselves." Bradley added that it is hopeful that researchers are examining this issue and in a nonpathologizing way. "More research on the topic aids in developing better prevention and intervention methods," she said. "Research with the LGBT community is not easy as it is often difficult to get participants. Also there have been strides within the recovery community to acknowledge the needs of LGBT people by developing LGBT specific 12-Step meetings and even LGBT specific recovery units within rehabs." The full name of Talley's analysis is "Longitudinal Associations among Discordant Sexual Orientation Dimensions and Hazardous Drinking in a Cohort of Sexual Minority Women." The analysis used data from the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women, which conducted the 10-year study from 2000 to 2010.