Alcoholism & Addiction

People with Alcohol Dependence Manage Social Rejection Differently, Says Study

Not only is alcoholism a serious, progressive and life-threatening disease – it can also create a situation where the person finds maintaining a healthy social life almost impossible or sees their social relationships dissolve as they work through treatment and recovery.

A study exploring the effects of the loss of social networks on people with alcohol addiction or dependence looked at specific ways the brain regions may respond to being socially excluded. The brain regions of the insula and cingulate cortex were identified through fMRI as showing a more intense response to a basic social exclusion exercise for people with alcohol dependence than people without alcohol abuse problems. Not only was their brain response more acute, people with alcohol abuse problems showed a lower capacity for managing or lessening their brain response to social exclusion than the non-alcoholic dependent group.

Additionally, as people recovering from alcoholism move forward with treatment goals, they may need to stop attending social functions where alcohol is present and create new social outlets, working through feelings of exclusion while they learn to manage the disease. Others in their social circle may feel uncomfortable as the person changes sometimes long-held habits and choices, potentially causing them to exclude the individual. For others, depression can accompany alcohol dependency or addiction, making social settings something the person strives to avoid until the depression is diagnosed and treated.

There are several factors related to social exclusion during the process of identifying and treating alcohol addiction, but with professional help, these challenges can eventually become new habits and new beginnings. Friends and family members are encouraged to take part in the recovery process through group support or with an addiction professional – not only to address negative emotions related to the addiction, but to understand the different facets of the addiction and of recovery process.

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