Psychological Aggression Often Accompanies Alcohol Use Disorder

Physical violence and intimate partner aggression are linked to problem drinking in men. Additionally, men who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) have been shown to engage in high levels of verbal abuse and psychological aggression with their partners. Other factors, such as personality and drinking attitudes, also influence these behaviors. Because psychological aggression can have significant negative consequences on the victim and can escalate to include other forms of aggression, understanding how related factors affect psychological aggression in men with AUD can be an important step in designing interventions to help these men and their partners. Lorig K. Kachadourian of Boston University’s School of Medicine and the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System recently conducted a study to identify what other events or behaviors increased this type of aggression in men with AUDs.

Kachadourian looked at anger, cognitive abilities, drinking history, drug use, AUD severity, and relationship conflict in 178 men who were receiving treatment for AUD. The participants and their partners were assessed once at the beginning of the study and again 6 months and 12 months into their treatment. The study revealed that an alarmingly high percentage of men with AUDs had used psychological aggression. Specifically, at baseline, nearly 100% reported using verbal or psychological aggression. That number decreased to 97% at 6 months and 88% at 12 months of follow-up. Kachadourian discovered that virtually every related factor examined in the study directly increased the likelihood of these men engaging in psychologically aggressive behaviors.

Of interest was the fact that both the men and their partners believed that relationship problems increased alcohol use and alcohol use increased relationship problems. Both of these factors also increased the level of psychological aggression in the participants. Having a better idea of how these factors influence aggression in intimate relationships can help clinicians create interventions that focus on these beliefs and behaviors to minimize the negative impact that psychological aggression has on the individuals and the relationship. Kachadourian suggests that therapists look closely at drinking history, anger, emotional control, and relationship conflict when working with individuals or couples struggling with psychological or verbal aggression. Kachadourian added, “Indeed, research has shown that couples-based interventions for alcoholics, which include some of these components, have been shown to be effective in decreasing not only alcohol consumption, but marital aggression as well.”

Kachadourian, L. K., Taft, C. T., O’Farrell, T. J., Doron-LaMarca, S., & Murphy, C. M. (2012). Correlates of intimate partner psychological aggression perpetration in a clinical sample of alcoholic men. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027436

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  • Joani


    March 21st, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    I really do hate those drunks who get mean when they drink! And believe me I have sadly hooked up with enough of those guys in my lifetime. I want to have a drink and get all me llowed out, but guys, they just process it all differently. They get all big and bad and think that they can take on you and the world. And then they want to take it out on the girls when they realize that’s not the way it’s gonna be. I can do without all of that- those are the ones you want to get sober and get to an AA meeting and fast!

  • tray vaughn

    tray vaughn

    March 21st, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    what a viscious cycle this create!
    problems cause more drinking, drinking causes more problems.
    hard really to tell where one problem starts and stops and the other begins.

  • Donna B

    Donna B

    March 21st, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    already bad relationship plus drinking gross quantities of alcohol does not equal the ideal situation

  • Stella


    March 22nd, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    I like that there is an emphasis on the fact that this is not something that the alcoholic has to go through alone. If this is a problem that violence excalates among the couple when there is drinking involved then it only makes sense thatsome couples intervention and treatment would be necessary. Why treat just the person with the drinking problem when that has led to emotional and physical problems with the couple and probably even the whole family? I think that the only thing that I could see being an issue is that the person who does not drink may be inclined to say that they are not the problems, that its the drinking thats the issue. But to help the alcoholic stop abusing, I think that any of us would need to be able to see how we may be contributing to the problem and how we could be there to help by making some changes ourselves.

  • juana h

    juana h

    March 22nd, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    This makes me so mad, because these losers that mistreat their friends and family after going on a drunk are the same ones showing back up on bended knee the next day full of apologies and excuses.
    I am tired of that, I am tired of being made to feel like I am next to nothing and then being expected to take him back in just because he says I love you baby and I promise it will never happen again.
    Yeah right, I have heard all of that before and I am through with letting you tear me down that way.
    I don’t even want you back in my life after you get the help that you need, if you ever do. I just want to be free of all of that.

  • Kenny


    March 23rd, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    Its not easy for these people to mend their ways.They will say they will never do it again but once they are drunk all the promises go out of the window.I have seen and heard of a lot of such people and what they need is help.

    Problem is-the ones around them would not want to get them help after their rowdy behavior.

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