This character trait could promote alcoholism, according to science

According to new research carried out by Belgian scientists, this particularly widespread character trait could favor the appearance of a serious disorder linked to alcohol consumption.

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health.

Is alcoholism – at least in part – conditioned by our personality? In any case, this is what new research suggests, carried out by a team of Belgian scientists from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Louvain, and published on August 1, 2022 in the journal Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research.

According to the results of this study, it would indeed seem that certain character traits potentially leading to social disconnection, like perfectionism and self-criticismmay indeed contribute to an increased risk of developing a serious alcohol use disorder.

Alcoholism, (also) a question of personality?

To reach such a conclusion, the Belgian researchers recruited 65 adults suffering from a serious disorder related to alcohol consumption and in hospital treatment, and 65 other healthy volunteers.

Each participant then completed an assessment known as the Hewitt Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, to assess the prevalence of each of these three forms of perfectionism:

  • Self-centered perfectionism: exaggerated performance standards imposed on oneself.
  • Socially Prescribed Perfectionism: a perception of high expectations from others.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism: set unrealistic standards for others.

After this evaluation, the researchers also sought to estimate the symptoms of depression and certain types of anxiety in each of the participants.

Focus on perfectionism

After going through all of these assessments, the researchers found that the group of participants with severe alcohol use disorders reported more noticeable anxiety and symptoms of depression than the control group. .

At the same time, 79% of participants in the first-cited group exhibited greater self-centered perfectionism and 88% exhibited higher socially prescribed perfectionist traits than the control group.

In short, these people set unrealistic personal standards and show heightened sensitivity to the expectations of others. Conversely, no significant difference was found for other-oriented perfectionism.

Results consistent with other risk factors

The data from this study also suggests that self-directed perfectionism in people with severe alcohol use disorders may be more prevalent in men and more educated people. In contrast, the researchers also found that this self-centered perfectionism was not associated with alcohol abuse among moderate drinkers in the control group.

Finally, the team notes that the results of this work are consistent with other known risk factors that can lead to developing serious alcohol use disorder:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Excessive self-criticism of social cognition disorders.
  • Discrepancies between the vision that an individual has of his real self and his ideal self.

The researchers therefore concluded that this alcohol use disorder appears to be directly associated with high perfectionism, beyond the influence of other co-occurring psychological conditions.

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