Living an unstable everyday life while attempting to perform normality – the meaning of living as an alcohol-dependent woman


  • Anna Thurang RN, PhD,

    Head of Staff Training, Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Dependency Disorder, Stockholm, Sweden
    • Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Linnéus University, Växjö, Sweden
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  • Anita Bengtsson Tops RN, PhD

    Associate Professor
    1. Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Linnéus University, Växjö, Sweden
    2. Department of Health and Social Sciences, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden
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Correspondence: Anna Thurang, Head of Staff Training, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Centre for Dependency Disorder, Box 17914, SE-118 95 Stockholm, Sweden. Telephone: +46812347008.



Aims and objectives

To illuminate the meaning of living with alcohol dependency as a woman.


The number of women suffering from alcohol dependency is increasing. Today there are shortcomings in knowledge about the lived experiences of being a woman with alcohol dependency; knowledge which might be of importance for meeting these women's specific needs of care.


The study has a qualitative design. Fourteen women with alcohol dependency participated in open in-depth interviews.


Data were analysed according to a phenomenological-hermeneutic method, and interpreted by help from gender and caring perspectives as well as results from previous research of alcohol dependency.


In relation to the women's senses of well-being, four main gender formations were found; An unstable self involving continual and rapid swings between emotional and bodily reactions. Ambivalence – meaning ambiguous feelings towards themselves as human beings and how they lead their lives. Introspectiveness – involving reflections, pondering and being introverted. Attempts to perform normality – covering – dealing with life through various strategies and facades to live up to the expectations of how to behave as a woman.


Living with alcohol dependency as a woman constitutes of a rapid shifting everyday life resulting in senses of alienation as well as private introspection leading to self-degradation, and to a lesser extent meaningfulness and hope. It also constitutes of managing to perform normality.

Relevance to clinical practice

When supporting women with alcohol dependency towards wellbeing, professionals need to work towards approaching the woman's inner thoughts, share them and reflect over them together. To support these women to find balance in life, caregivers need to cooperate with the women to find out how best to live a life adjusted to the woman's abilities and wishes.