What Interpersonal Difficulties Does Someone with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Face?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is diagnosed with problem drinking becomes severe – according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), approximately 15.1 million adults experienced an AUD in 2015. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an AUD, you’ve likely experienced one or more of the following:

  • Drinking more or longer than originally intended
  • Several failed attempts to quit drinking
  • Strong cravings associated with use
  • Continuing to drink despite problems and consequences it has in various parts of life
  • Getting into dangerous or risky situations when alcohol is involved
  • Drinking in higher amounts and more frequently in order to reach a desired effect

AUDs can certainly affect a person’s mind, body, and spirit, including their interactions with others. Studies have shown time and time again how important social connections are to mental health and well-being, but AUD can get in the way of this in a number of ways. A 2016 study published in the journal Addiction sought to explore social cognitive deficits in those with AUD. A total of 756 individuals diagnosed with AUD, and a total of 681 individuals considered “healthy” (to serve as a comparison group) were included in the study. Researchers found that facial recognition, particularly with disgust and anger, were significantly impaired. Theory of mind (TOM), also known as the ability to attribute mental states such as beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge and more, was also shown to be significantly impaired from AUD.

Social cognition involves our ability to interpret other peoples’ feelings and emotions, as well as our ability to understand the influence that our thoughts have on our feelings, the formation of self-concept, personal perception, and more. Since AUD can change behavioral and structural regions of the brain, it can certainly affect social cognition. If you’ve been struggling with an AUD, it’s time to seek help now. The sooner you seek help, the greater the chance you can ameliorate some of the damages done from severe drinking patterns.

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