Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Alcohol addiction and emotion

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alcohol addiction and emotion:
What role does emotion play in alcohol addiction?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1: Range of different alcoholic substances that can be purchased.

Alcohol has had a place in the world for centuries, from ancient Greece drinking fermented wine, to the Middle East consuming a substance of fermented wild yeast and honey (facts, 2015). Alcohol is a part of an everyday culture where it is acceptable to drink for any reason. These reasons can consist of celebrations, pleasure, social gatherings, relaxation, intensify imagination, due to peer influence, boredom, addiction, mood modification and to escape the “real world”. Alcohol is a psychoactive liquid depressant that slows the body and the mind (Australia, 2014). The colourless substance structural formula is CH3CH2OH and is consumed in beverages.

By alcohol being popular around the world people must understand that not everyone uses it in a responsible and appropriate way. When talking about irresponsible alcohol use, we are talking about the addiction, abuse and over-consumption of the substance which can lead to serious illnesses and injuries. Alcohol affects people in different ways physically, emotionally and mentally, based on size, weight, health, tolerance. interaction with other substances, and strength of the drink.

When consuming alcohol people can experience effects such as: When extensive amounts of alcohol are consumed a few things can and may happen:
  • Relaxation
  • Sluggish reflexes
  • Enhanced confidence
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Clumsiness
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea
  • vomiting
  • Passing out
  • Coma
  • Death (World, 2006).

Due to it's popularity in Western culture, it is likely that at some point in time people are going to experience alcohol, whether it is in moderation or over-consumption. The understanding of what alcohol is and does to our body and our emotions is what is important. This book chapter shall define what part emotions play in the addiction of alcoholic substances.

What is alcohol addiction?[edit | edit source]

Figure 2: The effects of alcohol on ones mental and emotional aspects within life

Alcohol addiction also known as Alcoholism is defined as “A pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking" (clinic,1998).

Binge drinking can be a form of alcohol addiction and is one of many different problems when drinking. Binge drinking is one of the main affects of alcohol addiction and this is the consumption of five or more drinks in a single sitting for a male and four or more drinks in one sitting for a female (Facts, 2015).

What are the emotional contributions to alcohol addiction?[edit | edit source]

Being emotionally unstable plays a huge part in the addiction and abuse of alcohol. When sad or upset, some people react by drinking heavily to get over the situation at hand. When they are excited or celebrating, some drink in excessive amounts.

One effective aspect of an emotional contribution to alcohol addiction is the link between addiction and emotional immaturity. Emotional immaturity can be defined as “the inability to control one's emotions” (Stewart, 1950).

It is thought that immature people are prone to being stuck in negative thoughts and emotions, which they are then unable to move past (Stewart, 1950). Emotionally immature people live a life full of destruction and difficulty for themselves and the people around them (Stewart, 1950). This is enormously stimulating to cope and help with an emotionally immature person because they are unable to interpret and react to various situations and are usually temperamental with many behavioural troubles.

Emotionally immature people can blame their problems and uncomfortable situations on others. This process can include emotions such as anger, fear, depression and sadness (Examiner, 2013). This is believed to be one of the reasons alcohol addiction is alleged to emerge in worried personalities both as cause and effect of tension. Alcoholism is believed to be a cause of increasing immaturity and therefore of tension in an already disordered person, by lowering inhibitions and social controls through the depressant action of alcohol on the central nervous system (Stewart, 1950).

Culture[edit | edit source]

The strong Australian culture pays a huge role in the way alcohol use is accepted and consumed (Barbor, 2010). Within the Australian culture drinking is considered apart of every day life and over-consumption of alcohol is often encouraged and applauded. Those who don't drink are often considered irregular from the rest and are sometime outcasted (Midford, 2015).

This strong drinking culture in Australia is putting pressure on the way people feel mentally and emotionally and is a contribution of the link between emotion and alcohol addiction. Due to the high consumption of alcohol in the culture it is putting stress on local families and can lead to deaths, the harming of unborn children, feeding child neglect and domestic violence (Midford, 2005) which all plays a part in the idea of alcohol addiction and emotion.

Alcohol myopia[edit | edit source]

Myopia is defined as a condition in which the “visual images come to a focus in front of the retina of the eye resulting especially in defective vision of distant objects” (Webster, 2015).  A theory of alcohol myopia would be an outline on the understanding and recognition of demand that alcohol has on the cognitive processing of information (Lac, 2013).The idea of alcohol myopia is that a tunnel vision sensation limits mental resources that are undesirable when making rational judgments and decisions.

Figure 3: What myopia actually effects your sight.

Alcohol myopia is the theory of alcohol intoxication that is viewed as having major effects on you social behaviour and emotion to a harmful point where it causes short sighted information processing. In other words it is a cognitive physiological theory on the abuse of alcohol, which suggests that individuals are unable to address all relevant activity and signs. Meaning that the environment that is in front of them and around them gets limited mental capacity due to major affects of the intoxication within the human body on the brains cognitive capacity (Giancola, Duke, & Ritz, 2011).

Alcohol myopia has

three main focuses points on social significant effects, these are known as:

1. Drunken excess:

This is the focus on alcohol's tendency to make the transformation of actions more extreme and excessive. This can be expressed in the form of exaggerated and unpredictable remarks that produce insensitive and unpredictable behaviours. During this state of excessiveness, drinkers myopically attend to act on a controlled range of impulses and environmental cues that may be aggravated by even the slightest annoyance. By failing to fully understand the acceptable actions of conduct, together with incomplete foresight about certain actions consequences long term intoxicated individuals are generally enslaved to the present moment in time. Sometimes while under the influence people may still perform inappropriate and or illegal acts, such as driving a vehicle, and is generally clueless to the potential consequences of the reckless action. There comes a major difficulty in the prevention of excessive implications due to alcohol's ability to incite aggression such spells of rage, damage to property, hassle into fights, sexual assaults, and the physical abuse of loved ones (Lac & Berger, 2013).

2. Drunken self inflation:

Is the term of major enhancement of feelings towards self appraisal and even severe narcissism. The alcohol consumer conveniently oversees information about personal flaws. This is due to the demands of alcohol on the mind. Exaggeration of self-image is thereby achieved as attention becomes myopically absorbed on the most superficial and noticeable aspects of the self (Lac & Berger, 2013). In simpler terms, it can expand our egos to a point where we are unable to see what’s true.

3. Drunken relief:

Upon consumption of alcohol, relief is achieved from the reduction in attention that is usually allocated to processing undesirable thoughts and mood states through out time. This means that the mind becomes temporarily distracted from accessing major/more distant concerns. Drinkers become myopically focused on surface information, because basic processing skills are unavailable to attend to thoughts and worries. Immediate relief from anxiety is a common effect of intoxication. Thus, alcohol might be consumed to soothe the stress from psychological or physical pain. It may also be consumed to bring a sense of calm at anxiety aggravated social events. (Lac & Berger, 2013)

Four theories of emotion[edit | edit source]

Throughout time there have been many theories on emotion, but four of them are most commonly discussed in link with each other. The four emotional theories being discussed are the James-Lange Theory (1884 - 1887), Cannon-Bard Theory, Schachter-Singer Theory (1962), and Opponent-Process Theory (1974). These four theories tie together due to each theorist believing that the other was flawed in some way. The idea behind addressing these theories is to try help understand the ideas of emotions over time and how he or she can approach their own emotions in any given situation and in this chapter instance it would be excessive alcohol consumption.

James-Lange theory (1884-1887)[edit | edit source]

The James-Lange Theory was one of the first efforts to explain the role of physiological changes in emotion. James & Lange believed that the definition of emotion was the feeling within the body that changes and follows the insight of an exciting event. What James believed was that the “emotions felt was the noise of bodily changes on the cortex” (Fehr & Stern, 1970). The theory states that emotions are not directly caused by the awareness of a certain event but relatively by the bodies reply caused by the events. Realistically the meaning of this is that in order to experience emotion people must firstly familiarise themselves with the bodily response that corresponds to the emotion. Examples of these would be racing heart, sweaty hands and fast breathing.

Cannon-Bard theory[edit | edit source]

The Cannon-Bard theory is also known as the thalamic theory (Cannon, 1931). This theory was researched on the belief of the James-Lange theory was flawed (Cannon, 1927). It was suggested that you could experience physiological reactions linked to emotion without actually feeling those emotions. The example used was if you have been exercising your heart rate is up, not because you are afraid (Education, 2015). The meaning of this was that they believed that our brain could not just rely on our bodily replies in order for us to know which emotion they are feeling. The summarisation of the theory would be that within the “thalamus the sensory impulses are received, regrouped and reallocated to higher levelled motor centre or to neighbouring motor centres where the emotional response mechanisms are ready for rapid ejection resulting in a reflex like muscular and instinctual activity”  (Newman, 1936). In conclusion of the study they came up with by the experiences of both emotions and the bodies response you can know which emotion is being felt (Cannon, 1927).

Schachter-Singer theory (1962)[edit | edit source]

The Schachter-Singer theory also known as the two factor theory of emotion was developed by Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer. Their theory suggested that by experiencing emotions it requires both a bodily response and an interpretation of the bodily response by considering the particular situation the person is in, at that moment in time (Stealthier & Singer, 1962). An example of this would be if your heart is racing in fear on one occasion and in excitement another even though the bodily response is the same we might experience very different emotions depending on the types of situations present.

Opponent-Process Theory (1974)[edit | edit source]

The opponent-Process theory of emotion was developed by psychologist Richard Solomon and John Corbit. The difference between the other three emotional theories is that they explain that they believe that you must be in some sort of situation to feel emotions of some sort, but with this theory is that the explanation our experiences of emotions is in relation to its opposites. The suggestion is that the involvement of emotion disrupts the body’s state of balance and that our basic emotions typically have their opposing counterparts (Solomon & Corbit, 1974).

Examples would be the opposite of pleasure is pain and the opposite of fear would be faith (opposite). The idea of the theory is that when he or she experiences a strong emotion they suppress the opposite emotion. Once the initial emotion diminishes in intensity, they naturally experience the contrasting emotion to balance out the two. For the understanding of this people can refer to the example of sky diving, you experience a high level of fear but after you jump out and land he or she starts to feel a high level of relief, which is the opposite of fear.

This theory is commonly used to help with the explanation of drug addiction. When people take a drug it is most likely associated with pleasure and enjoyment but when he or she takes themselves away from the drug they most commonly feel a withdrawal effect of the drug. When experiencing withdrawal from the drug the feeling of pain floods in due to the addiction. When this happens addicts take more of the drug right away in order to feel pleasure again, but as they experience pleasure from a state of pain and not a normal state they need more of the drug than before. This is what’s considered as the addictive cycle of drugs (Solomon & Corbit, 1973).

Coping with negative emotions[edit | edit source]

A definition of emotions would be "short lived, feeling-arousal-purpose-expressive phenomena that help us adapt to the opportunities and challenges we face during important life events" (Reeve, p. 301, 2009). Negative emotions are defined as usually an unpleasant or unhappy emotion that is evoked in individuals to express a negative affect towards and event or person.  Coping is interpreted as “cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demand that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person” (Brown, Westbrook, & Challagalla, 2005). 

Figure 4: the expression of uncontrollable rage

There are many emotions, but the seven major negative emotions are fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition and anger. Emotions always play a major role in human lifestyle, from love to hatred, but it is essential to understand that emotions can get the better of us and lead us a stray when talking about the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do within a situation.

Negative emotions have the ability to lead us down a path full of misery and unhappiness. People must understand that they can never let go of negative emotions, but can cope with them in certain situations whether it’s the realisation of an unhealthy life style, an unhappy life style, or the feeling of a situation of unhappy circumstances.

If individuals are to perform successfully they must understand that it is essential to overcome the effects of undesirable events and negative emotions that threaten goals and the abilities of the people; which in turn helps to self regulate doubtful emotion.

There were traditionally two categories for coping, one being problem focused, and two being emotion focused. Problem focused coping strategies are related to activities aimed at overcoming difficulties and problems, while emotion focused coping strategies are aimed at regulating emotional states so that cognitive and motor functioning can be optimised (Alberts, Schneider, & Martijn, 2012). Over time, people come to the realisation that there are many coping styles they can use, but some may prove to be more effective than others. This can depend on the nature of the stressful situation and the person who is employing the coping style.

Every day methods of coping
  • Humor. Pointing out the amusing aspects of the problem at hand, or "positive reframing," is thought to help deal with small failures.
  • Seeking support. Asking for help, or finding emotional support from family members or friends, can be an effective way of maintaining emotional health during a stressful period.
  • Relaxation. Engaging in relaxing activities, or practicing calming techniques, can help to manage stress and improve overall coping.
  • Physical recreation. Regular exercise, such as running, or team sports, is a good way to handle the stress of given situation. This may involve yoga, meditating, progressive muscle relaxation, among other techniques of relaxation.
  • Adjusting expectations. Anticipating various outcomes to scenarios in life may assist in preparing for the stress associated with any given change or event.
  • Denial. Avoidance of the issue altogether may lead to denying that a problem even exists. Denial is usually maintained by distractions, such as excessive alcohol consumption, overworking, or sleeping more than usual.
  • Self-blame. Internalizing the issue, and blaming oneself (beyond just taking responsibility for one's actions), leads to low-self esteem and sometimes depression (UCLA, 2015).

A study being addressed about different coping methods would be by Hugo Alberts, Francine Schneider, and Carolien Martijn, called dealing efficiently with emotions. The idea behind their study was to be opened about negative emotions and not to bottle them up were they build and become uncontrollable (Alberts, H. M., Schneider, F., & Martijn, C. 2012).

Types of coping[edit | edit source]

There are thought to be four different types of coping; these are instrumental strategies, intrapsychic strategies, inhibition of action and information seeking (Aldwin, 1987).

Instrumental strategies[edit | edit source]

Instrumental strategy, which can also be known as direct action or problem solving, is directed towards managing the threat or stressor itself (Aldwin,1987). This can be represented by a task-focused strategy that tackles the issue in order to reduce stress around a given situation. This is effective when addressing alcohol and emotions, because when people take themselves away from the situation, drinking alcohol can control the outcome in terms of controlling their emotions within the situation.

Figure 5: Mixed emotions that can occur with alcohol and the addiction of alcohol.

Intrapsychic strategies[edit | edit source]

Intrapsychic strategies are aimed primarily at regulating or minimisation of emotional distress. An example of this would be venting, or the “discharging of ones negative feelings by expressing them to others” (Brown, 2005). Venting is well known to be an externalising coping technique that plays on the outward expressions of ones emotions. In moderation this can be healthy however, ruminating on the negative can lead to strained relationships over time.

Inhibition of action[edit | edit source]

Inhibition of action refers to the capability of fight taking action when such action would surge the likelihood of harm, danger, or conflict with moral restraints (Aldwin,1987). This strategy can be linked to the idea of self-control. When fighting an urge, the emotional stability of one's self counteracts the negative effects and situation around them. Self-control is an individual’s restraint from indulging in a negative action that might further complicate or damage the situation (Brown & Westbrook, 2005).

Information seeking[edit | edit source]

The idea of Information seeking is that it involves the instrumental activity of gaining a basis for action. This is also a form of support deployment that can relieve emotional distress (Aldwin,1987).

Although these ideas and definitions for coping are undoubtedly universal the conclusion is that these strategies specifically exclude defensive or unconscious strategies, but these modes presented may be extensive enough to reflect personality differences but precise enough to be sensitive to situational differences (Aldwin,1987).

Seeking of emotional enhancement[edit | edit source]

Throughout society, the understanding of emotional enhancement throughout a lifetime can become an uphill battle. Sometimes emotional stability and enrichment can lead to satisfaction in life and the tests faced within it. The seeking of emotional enhancement through alcoholic substances is widely addressed and used in a way that reduces or manages emotional instability, as well as to enhance positive emotional experience.

The idea of seeking emotional enhancement can be tied to alcohol's capacity to regulate positive and negative effects. When negative emotions occur people will drink to cope to an extent that they believe will reduce negative effects, meaning that they drink to enhance to the extent they believe that alcohol enhances social and emotion experiences (Cooper, Frone, Russell, & Mudar, 1995). Within society people have come to accept the idea that human beings drink to regulate the quality of their emotional experience, but drinking to enhance positive emotions and to cope with negative emotions comes with consequences.

A study by M. Lynne Cooper, Michael R. Frone, Marcia Russell and Pamela Mudar (1995) expresses the idea of positive emotions while drinking, negative emotions while drinking and the consequences that might occur. The theory and research referred to is believed to expand on one's desire to control one's effective experience, which is an important motive for the use and abuse of alcohol. It is believed that enhancement of individual's emotions related to alcohol use, is to reduce negative affects when anxious or over aroused or to increase positive effects when they are exhausted or under aroused (Cooper, Frone, Russell, & Mudar, 1995).

A statement by M. Lynne Cooper, Michael R. Frone, Marcia Russell and Pamela Mudar (1995) helps to understand the role of emotional enhancement while drinking and its positive relation and similarities."Drinking to cope is conceptualised as a reactive process, presumably initiated by the experience of negative emotions. Thus, negative emotions should positively predict the use of alcohol to cope" (Cooper, Frone, Russell, & Mudar, 1995). The words important to review within this sentence is "negative emotions", this meaning that negative emotions bring on drinking which in turn is the seeking of emotional enhancement and both seeking exhilaration and the reduction of negative affect are commonly referred to reasons for original and repetitive use among alcohol abusers in treatment and both have been reasons for recurrence among recovering alcoholics (Cooper, M. L., Frone, M. R., Russell, M., & Mudar, P. 1995).

Data also indicates that people who are strongly motivated to consume alcohol for these reasons either drink more, drink more often, or both, and can be at greater risk for alcoholic problems. It is believed that individuals who commonly use alcohol to cope supposedly have learned to do this because they lack, more adaptive techniques of coping and more knowledge on healthy none drug related emotional enhancement (Cooper, Frone, Russell, & Mudar, 1995).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Alcohol has a huge impact on society and can affect people's every day lives. When talking about the addiction of alcoholic substances and how it can affect your body and mind to a point of major embarrassment and the danger of excessive alcohol consumption. At some point throughout a life time alcohol will be present in a number of situations, but the only one that can control it is yourself, meaning that knowledge of the effects and the consequences it can have on your life is essential.

Even though alcohol has many positives when being consumed studies have told readers that with positives can come negatives, and if you let the negatives control the outcome it can have an effect on the person and the people around them.

The addiction of alcohol has many ways of disrupting your emotions and mental thought but to understand that even though people have strong emotions for the addiction it can always be fought, this applies to the negative emotions that come with it. The understanding of ones emotions is the link between emotion and alcohol addiction.

What role does emotion play in alcohol addiction? The answer for the question is that studies have outlined that alcohol does indeed have an effect on peoples emotions, from relaxation to confusion and some times in severe cases of consumption, poisoning and death. What must be essentially understood is that however society and the people within it approach the consumption of alcohol they need to take in that it is a drug that depresses the senses and can be positive and negative in many ways. When emotionally stable alcohol consumption can be easily controlled and safe to use but whether or not to properly consume alcohol is up to the people and the society surrounded by everyday challenges.

References[edit | edit source]

Alberts, H. M., Schneider, F., & Martijn, C. (2012). Dealing efficiently with emotions: Acceptance-based coping with negative emotions requires fewer resources than suppression. Cognition And Emotion, 26(5), 863-870. doi:10.1080/02699931.2011.625402

Australia, G. o. (2014). What is alcohol. Retrieved 8, 28, 2015, from Alcohol think again:

Babor, T. (2010). Alcohol: no ordinary commodity: research and public policy. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Brown, S. P., Westbrook, R. A., & Challagalla, G. (2005). Good Cope, Bad Cope: Adaptive and Maladaptive Coping Strategies Following a Critical Negative Work Event. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 792-798. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.90.4.792

Cannon, W. B. (1927) The James-Lange theory of emotion: A critical examination and an alternative theory. American Journal of Psychology, 39, 10-124.

Cannon, W. B. (1931). Again the James-Lange and the thalamic theories of emotion. Psychological Review, 38(4), 281-295. doi:10.1037/h0072957

Carolyn M. Aldwin, T. A. (1987). does coping help? A reexamination of the relation beetween coping and mental health . personality and social psychology , 53 (2), 337-348.

Cooper, M. L., Frone, M. R., Russell, M., & Mudar, P. (1995). Drinking to regulate positive and negative emotions: A motivational model of alcohol use. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 69(5), 990-1005. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.69.5.990

Clinic, M. (1998). Alcohol use disorder . Retrieved 3, 9, 2015, from Mayo foundation for medical education and research :

Dictionary, p. (2015). what is negative emotion. Retrieved September 21, 2015, from Psychology dictionary :

Education, A. (2015). Theories of emotion: some of the major theories to explain human emotions. Retrieved 21, 9, 2015, from About education : Http:// (2013). signs of emotional immaturity. Retrieved 2015, from Http://

Facts, A. (2015, November 8). An alcohol History timeline. Retrieved 8, 28, 2015, from Alcohol facts:

Fehr, F. S., & Stern, J. A. (1970). Peripheral physiological variables and emotion: The James-Lange theory revisited. Psychological Bulletin, 74(6), 411-424. doi:10.1037/h0032958

Foundation, A. d. (2015. 7.7). Alcohol facts. Retrieved 2015, from Drug info:

Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988a). Coping as a mediator of emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 466–475.

Giancola, P., Duke, A., & Ritz, K. (2011). Alcohol, violence, and the alcohol myopia model; Preliminary findings and implications for prevention. Addictive Behaviours 36, 1019-1022. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.05.006

Lac, A., & Berger, D. E. (2013). Development and validation of the Alcohol Myopia Scale. Psychological Assessment, 25(3), 738-747. doi:10.1037/a0032535

Midford, R. (2005). Australia and alcohol: Living down the legend. Addiction.

Newman, I. (1936). Cannon's theory of emotion, and an alternative thalamic theory. The Journal Of Abnormal And Social Psychology, 31(3), 253-259. doi:10.1037/h0056184

Reeve, J. M. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (fifth edition ed.). Hoboken, USA: John Wiley and Son, inc

Steele, C. M., & Josephs, R. A. (1990). Alcohol myopia: Its prized and dangerous effects. American Psychologist, 45(8), 921-933. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.45.8.921

Solomon, R.L. & Corbit, J.D. (1974). An opponent-process theory of motivation: I. Temporal dynamics of affect. Psychological Review, 81, 119-145.

Stewart, D. A. (1950). Alcoholism as a psychological problem. Canadian Journal Of Psychology/Revue Canadienne De Psychologie, 4(2), 75-80. doi:10.1037/h0083513

UCLA, D. D.(2015)."how do you cope".Retrieved 9, 12, 2015, from UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program Information and Admissions:

Webster, M. (2015). Myopia . Retrieved 9,16, 2015, from Meriam Webster:

William, J. (1884). what is emotion. mind association , 9 (34), 188-205.

World, d. f. (2006). The truth about alcohol . Retrieved September 3, 2015, from Foundation for a drug free world :

See also[edit | edit source]