Social anxiety (SA) is highly comorbid with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol may be negatively reinforcing for SA individuals by dampening post-event rumination (i.e., negative rumination following social interactions). Prior research has supported this hypothesis with negative rumination. Depression, commonly comorbid with SA and AUD, also features rumination.
Through secondary analyses, we examined the effects of alcohol consumption before an in-lab social interaction and depressive symptoms on both negative and positive post-event rumination about the interaction. Ninety-four high SA undergraduates were randomized to consume alcohol or no alcohol before the interaction; depressive symptoms were measured. Post-event rumination was measured three days later.
Those higher (vs lower) in depressive symptoms reported more negative rumination. Those randomized to the alcohol (vs no alcohol) condition reported more positive rumination after the interaction.
Individuals with SA may find alcohol positively reinforcing by increasing positive post-event rumination, independent of negative reinforcement effects. Clinical implications are discussed.