Context-specific drinking and social anxiety: The roles of anticipatory anxiety and post-event processing

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Individuals with clinically elevated social anxiety are especially vulnerable to alcohol-related problems, despite not drinking more than those with less anxiety. It is therefore important to identify contexts in which socially anxious persons drink more to inform intervention efforts. This study tested whether social anxiety was related to greater drinking before, during, or after a social event and whether such drinking was related to the psychosocial factors anticipatory anxiety or post-event processing (PEP; review of the social event). Among past-month drinkers, those with clinically elevated or higher social anxiety (HSA; n = 212) reported more anticipatory anxiety, more pre-event drinking to manage anxiety, and PEP than those with normative or lower social anxiety (LSA; n = 365). There was a significant indirect effect of social anxiety on pre-drinking via anticipatory anxiety. Social anxiety was related to more drinking during the event indirectly via the serial effects of anticipatory anxiety and pre-drinking. Unexpectedly, PEP did not mediate or moderate the relation between social anxiety and post-event drinking. In sum, anticipatory anxiety was related to more drinking before, during, and after a social event and HSA drinkers were especially vulnerable to drinking more to manage this anxiety, which increased drinking before and during the event. This effect was specific to anticipatory anxiety and not evident for another social anxiety-specific risk factor, PEP. Thus, anticipatory anxiety may be an important therapeutic target for drinkers generally and may be especially important among HSA drinkers.

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Addictive behaviors

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