THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOCIAL ANXIETY AND ALCOHOL USE IN A COLLEGE STUDENT SAMPLE
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Some individuals with social phobia frequently use alcohol, a behavior that may often result in the alleviation of anticipatory or performance anxiety in social situations. Reinforcement of drinking behavior may eventually lead to alcohol abuse or possibly the more severe condition of dependence. This study investigated the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in a sample of socially anxious college students. Quantity and frequency of drinking were measured and analyzed between high social anxiety participants (HSA) and low social anxiety participants (LSA). The HSA group included those with DSM-IV social phobia, as well as those who did not meet criteria for social phobia. Drinking motives were analyzed between the two groups to determine whether highly socially anxious drinkers differed from low socially anxious drinkers in reported reasons for drinking. Trait negative affect also was measured to explore the possibility that socially anxious drinkers experience a greater level of general, negative emotionality when compared to those with social anxiety who do not drink. Results indicated that low socially anxious participants had greater amounts of alcohol use on all drinking indices. When drinking motives were used to predict actual amount of alcohol use, high social facilitation motives were best associated with actual drinking for LSA participants; whereas coping motives were most predictive for HSA drinkers. Therefore, among college students, where drinking is a social behavior, individuals with low social anxiety were more likely to drink. However, socially anxious individuals may be more likely to drink to cope with anxiety and depression, a style of drinking associated with drinking problems later in life.