Sexual orientation self-concept ambiguity and alcohol use disorder symptomology: The roles of motivated psychological distancing and drinking to cope

David W. Hancock, Amelia E. Talley, Jennifer Bohanek, Micah D. Iserman, Molly Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Women whose sexual identity is not exclusively heterosexual are at risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and problematic drinking. A textual analytic approach focusing on motivated psychological distancing in language style use was used to detect sexual minority women who are at greatest risk for an AUD. Method: Young adult women (N = 254) were asked to complete a self-report measure of sexual orientation self-concept ambiguity as well as free-write about their sexuality. In addition, they completed a questionnaire assessing AUD symptoms according to criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. The Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program assessed language markers within participant-written essays that reflected acute states of aversive self-focus (i.e., fewer first-person pronouns, fewer present-tense verbs). Results: Drinking to cope with negative affectivity mediated the relationship between sexual orientation self-concept ambiguity and AUD symptomology. This indirect effect was conditional, moderated by higher use of language reflecting motivated psychological distancing, such that the indirect effect was significant only for women whose writing included fewer instances of first-person pronouns and present-tense verbs (-1 SD) compared with those with greater instances of first-person pronouns and present-tense verbs (+1 SD), reflecting motivated psychological distancing. Conclusions: Sexual minority women are at an increased risk for AUD. Further, this study suggests mechanisms that may exacerbate the relationship between sexual identity uncertainty and problematic drinking. The study presents a novel method of identifying individuals most at risk for alcohol misuse: detecting aversive self-focus in language style and word choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-101
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Volume79
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2018

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