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Reinforcement sensitivity and alcohol use : the role of depression, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity and trait anxiety Maclean, A. Michael

Abstract

The current research investigated the role of depression, hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, and trait anxiety in alcohol use and problems, using hierarchical regression and structural equation modelling (SEM). Using adolescent sample in Study 1, coping drinking motives mediated the relations of both depression and hopelessness with alcohol problems, whereas conformity motives mediated the relationship between anxiety sensitivity and alcohol problems. Trait anxiety did not significantly contribute to the prediction of alcohol use once other predictors were accounted for. The structural model was cross-validated on a second group of adolescents. Using a young adult sample, Study 2 further investigated distinct motivational pathways to alcohol use, distinguishing between anxiety-related and depression-related drinking motives. Depressive symptomatology had an indirect impact on alcohol dependence through depression drinking motives, whereas trait anxiety had an indirect impact on alcohol dependence through anxiety motives and in turn alcohol frequency. Depression is hypothesized to be characterized by an underactive Behavioural Activation System (BAS; i.e., reward-responsiveness) and an overactive Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS; i.e., punishment-susceptibility), whereas anxiety is said to be characterized by an overactive BIS only. Self-report BIS/BAS scales and a reinforcement contingency paradigm - Card Arranging Reward Responsivity Objective Test (CARROT) - were used to examine the extent to which reinforcement sensitivity was able to account for relations among personality/symptom variables and alcohol use. A sip of alcohol was used to examine whether cues for alcohol could increase reward-responsiveness and diminish punishment-susceptibility. Generally, findings confirmed hypotheses concerning BAS and BIS activity. However, depressive symptomatology was not characterized by low BAS activity using self-report, and neither hopelessness nor depressive symptomatology exhibited low BAS on the CARROT. Anxiety sensitivity was characterized by high BIS with self-report, but not the CARROT. Individuals scoring high on depressive symptomatology, hopelessness, and trait anxiety all exhibited high self-reported BIS activity and diminished punishment-susceptibility on the CARROT after presentation of alcohol cues. The current research provides preliminarily evidence for depression and anxiety playing independent roles in motivation for alcohol use, with both reflecting a desire to diminish BIS activity (i.e., negative affect). The current as well as past findings are integrated into a model of depression and anxiety-related alcohol use.

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