Affect and addiction are intertwined in a number of unique ways. One of the primary associations that these two domains have is their relationship with self-consciousness (SC). Individuals with depression often have high levels of SC and people with alcohol addiction often have affect and mood issues such as depression. When someone tries to abstain from alcohol, they can experience significant cravings.
However, it has been shown that these cravings will diminish over time. For individuals with depression, negative mood states and negative self-appraisals can trigger cravings and, thus, increase the risk of relapse. Because SC is found to be relatively high in those with depression, understanding the effect of this trait on craving could help clinicians treating those with alcohol use issues.
Philippe de Timary of the Institute of Neuroscience at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium recently led a study to explore the relationship between SC and craving in a sample of 30 individuals undergoing alcohol detoxification. The participants were assessed for depression, SC, and cravings at the beginning of treatment and again at days 14 through 18. The results revealed that craving and depression both decreased significantly from day 1 to day 18. But the levels of SC among the participants, which were found to be similar to SC levels of those in the general population, did not decrease.
Timary discovered that the individuals with severe depression and elevated SC scores at treatment initiation had the highest level of cravings, depression, and SC at the end of the study period. This suggests that the more self-conscious someone is, the more this trait can impact depression and, subsequently, cravings.
Timary believes that clinicians working with individuals who have alcohol dependence, and especially those with depression, might have greater success if they employ mindfulness-based and metacognitive therapies that focus on developing nonreactive, nonjudgmental acceptance behaviors that could minimize SC and depression. Timary added, “Our results suggest that metacognitive approaches targeting SC could decrease craving and, in turn, prevent future relapses.