Generalized Anxiety Disorders & Alcohol Use Disorders

Remember in my first blog I said I was going to talk about “mean girls” and their lack of supportive behavior toward one another?  Well, this week I’m taking a little detour, looking instead at the relationship between alcohol consumption and anxiety. I located a scholarly article, “Drinking Refusal Self-Efficacy and Tension-Reduction Alcohol Expectancies Moderating the Relationship Between Generalized Anxiety and Drinking Behaviors in Young Adult Drinkers”, through the database PsycInfo, to which the Texas A&M Library has a subscription. I know that the article is scholarly because it was published in a peer-reviewed journal, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The article focuses on the nature of the relationship between generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and alcohol use disorders (AUD). The authors faced a “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma in that they wanted to examine which disorder caused the other and the complex relationship between the two disorders. Through previous studies, they found that cases in which generalized anxiety disorder was a precursor to alcohol use disorders were more severe, chronic, and difficult to treat than cases in which alcohol use disorder was the primary disorder. The social learning theory states that individuals’ behaviors and cognitions are established and reinforced through their interactions with the environment and other people. The two main cognitive expectancies associated with the consumption of alcohol are alcohol expectancies, or how individuals believe alcohol impacts their cognitions, mood, and behavior, and drinking refusal self-efficacy, one’s believed ability to successfully turn down an alcoholic beverage. These two cognitive concepts are thought to shape the relationship between social anxiety and heavy drinking behavior. The authors hypothesized that individuals with high generalized anxiety, high tension-reduction alcohol expectancies and low drinking refusal self-efficacy would report greater alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences than individuals with low generalized anxiety. Their hypothesis was supported by the data collected; the strongest correlation being between drinking refusal self-efficacy and the amount of alcohol consumed and amount of alcohol-related consequences (see graph below). Alcohol expectancies and drinking refusal self-efficacy were found to moderate the relationships between generalized anxiety disorders and drinking behaviors, as the authors theorized based on previous research. The authors conclude that generalized anxiety disorder may causally precede alcohol use disorders, but that further research must be done to generalize their findings to larger populations.

The article addresses a specific audience of psychologists and psychiatrists, more specifically those who specialize in addiction, alcohol misuse, and/or anxiety. Due to the particular audience, the authors use an abundance of scientific terms and do not explain the disorders in detail because prior knowledge is assumed. I believe that this article conveys a message about an ongoing investigation into the relationship between anxiety and using alcohol as a coping mechanism. The authors investigate new variables that have been previously overlooked, such as looking at generalized anxiety on a continuous scale by using participants who experience symptoms of generalized anxiety but are not clinically diagnosed. Until I have a chance to research a little further, safe to say that if you already suffer from anxiety disorders, alcohol is likely not the path to calm you are looking for.

Works Cited
“Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).” Anxiety and Depression Association of America,
2010. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.adaa.org/understanding
anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad>.

Goldsmith, Abigail A., Rachel D. Thompson, Jessica J. Black, Giao Q. Tran, and Joshua
P. Smith. “Drinking Refusal Self-efficacy and Tension-reduction Alcohol
Expectancies Moderating the Relationship between Generalized Anxiety and
Drinking Behaviors in Young Adult Drinkers.” Psychology of Addictive
Behaviors
 26.1 (2012): 59-67.PsycINFO. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.

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