The Effects of Alcohol and Anxiety: Senesitivity on Social Stress in Women


Beth A. Lewis

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The tension reduction hypothesis postulates that consuming alcohol leads to a stress dampening effect. This stress reduction is negatively reinforcing, therefore, individuals learn that consuming alcohol will reduce unpleasant, tension type sensations and cognitions. Several studies have examined the validity of the tension reduction hypothesis as an explanatory model for the development o f alcohol problems, but no clear consensus has been found. As a result, researchers have begun to examine individual difference variables that may interact with the effects of alcohol on anxiety. The present study examined potential individual difference factors (social anxiety and anxiety sensitivity) by randomly assigning 40 women (only women were investigated due to the lack o f research on this population) to either consume a low dose o f alcohol (lml/kg of alcohol) or a placebo. Contrary to what was predicted, anxiety sensitivity did not interact with the effect of alcohol on anxiety (as measured by physiological and subjective anxiety measures) than the placebo group. However, social anxiety did interact with the effect of alcohol on anxiety. The interaction revealed that o f the participants who consumed alcohol, those prone to social anxiety exhibited more of an increase in heart rate than those not prone to social anxiety. Perhaps the socially anxious participants became more nervous while giving the speech because they thought the alcohol was causing them to seem more socially impaired.

This document is currently not available here.