Rates of comorbid alcohol dependence with depression and anxiety are high. Extensive research has been conducted into this topic in an effort to determine how each of these conditions and risk factors for these conditions influence each other. Understanding the traits that could make a person more vulnerable to internalizing conditions such as depression or anxiety, or externalizing issues such as alcohol dependence, could also help improve interventions designed to address these comorbid psychological problems.
To get a better understanding of which personality traits are most common with each of these issues independently and together, Lynn Boschloo of the Department of Psychiatry and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research at the VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands recently led a study involving individuals with comorbid and pure conditions.
The participants included 32 individuals with alcohol dependence alone, 1,398 with anxiety and/or depression only, 358 with both alcohol and depression or anxiety, and 460 with no history of psychiatric illness. Boschloo looked at negative emotional states such as rumination, hopelessness, neuroticism, and worry. She also assessed impulsivity, thrill seeking, disinhibition, and boredom.
Boschloo found that even though some negative emotional states were moderately associated with the alcohol dependence only group, they were much stronger among the participants with comorbid alcohol dependence and anxiety/depression and the participants with anxiety/depression only. She also discovered that the negative emotional traits and the impulsive traits were entirely unrelated to one another, but did overlap in some participants. Further, the impulsive trait had only a weak association with alcohol dependence and depression/anxiety.
Boschloo believes that these results demonstrate the importance of personality in the development of these internalizing and externalizing conditions. Understanding how each of these individual traits influences psychological symptoms is a critical component in the design and delivery of treatments. For instance, interventions for depression/anxiety could focus on decreasing negative emotional traits while those targeting alcohol dependent individuals could strive to transform disinhibition.
Taken one step further, treatments aimed at reducing negative traits could benefit those with internalizing behaviors and alcohol dependence. “Similarly,” added Boschloo, “Interventions enhancing behavioural control might have an additional beneficial effect on depressive/anxiety symptoms.”
Boschloo, L., et al. (2013). The role of negative emotionality and impulsivity in depressive/anxiety disorders and alcohol dependence. Psychological Medicine 43.6 (2013): 1241-53. ProQuest. Web.
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