Considering parental history of anxiety in alcohol rehab

Non 12 step addiction treatment puts an emphasis on resolving underlying issues, including issues of anxiety. Family history with addiction and substance abuse can be a major factor in understanding the underlying issues behind one’s alcohol addiction.

Previous research has shown that a family history of alcohol dependence is a risk factor for alcohol use disorders. Positive expectancies of alcohol use have been shown to moderate this association. Family history of anxiety disorders may also be a risk factor for alcohol use disorders; this is suggested by high rates of comorbidity between anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorders. Further, expectations of negative reinforcement (such as tension reduction) have been shown to moderate anxiety-related traits. With this in mind, researchers at Yale University examined parental history of anxiety and alcohol disorders as a predictor of alcohol-related problems (2009). Although parental history of alcohol disorders is commonly explored in alcohol rehab, this study suggests that it might be beneficial to explore parental history of anxiety disorders, too.

144 offspring between the ages of 18 and 32 (53.5 percent male) were recruited. Parents of the offspring were directly interviewed and assessed for history of anxiety and alcoholism. Participants were placed into one of four groups: those with a parental history of alcoholism (27.8 percent), parental history of anxiety (22.2 percent), parental history of alcoholism and anxiety (33.3 percent), and no history of psychopathology (16.7 percent). Measures in the study included the offspring’s alcohol expectancies, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems.

The authors hypothesized that expectations of tension reduction would moderate the influence parental history of alcoholism as well as parental history of anxiety. Results showed that global positive expectancies were associated with alcohol-related problems for the group with parental history of both alcoholism and anxiety. However, researchers did not find expected interactions between parental anxiety and tension-reduction expectancies, nor did they find expected interactions between parental alcoholism and global positive expectancies. These results suggest that individuals with parental history of comorbid alcohol and anxiety disorders may have the highest risk of alcohol-related problems due to positive expectations of alcohol. In alcohol rehab and alcohol treatment for such individuals, their alcohol expectancies should be questioned and challenged.

“Consistent with the social cognitive theory of drinking behavior, the results suggest that it is critical to consider both positive and negative reinforcement expectancies when examining parental history effects,” the authors conclude. “The results also highlight the importance of assessing both a parental history of alcoholism and a parental history of comorbid psychopathology with respect to alcohol expectancies and alcohol consumption. The mechanisms of risk may differ for those with pure versus co-morbid parental histories, perhaps owing to unique personality traits associated with these parental histories.”

Each family situation is unique, which is why individualized treatment programs for alcohol abuse is very beneficial for one attempting to recover from alcohol addiction. A self-empowering addiction treatment program provides people with the tools necessary to decrease their anxiety level, which may help in recovery from alcohol addiction. Additionally, family therapy may be helpful in resolving anxiety that is family-related, and help people in recovery.

Morean ME, Corbin WR, Sinha R, O’Malley SS. Parental history of anxiety and alcohol-use disorders and alcohol expectancies as predictors of alcohol-related problems. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2009; 70(2): 227-236.