Abstract and concrete repetitive thinking modes in alcohol-dependence

J Addict Dis. 2016 Oct-Dec;35(4):238-243. doi: 10.1080/10550887.2016.1207970. Epub 2016 Jul 18.


Emotional and interpersonal deficits play a crucial role in alcohol-related disorders as they predict alcohol consumption and relapse. Recent models of emotion regulation in psychopathology postulate that these deficits are centrally related to increased abstract/analytic repetitive thinking, combined with reduced concrete/experiential repetitive thinking. As this assumption has not been tested in addictions, this study aimed at investigating repetitive thinking modes in a large sample of alcohol-dependent individuals. One hundred recently detoxified alcohol-dependent individuals (29 females; mean age = 49.51-years-old) recruited during the 3rd week of their treatment in a detoxification center were compared to 100 healthy controls (29 females; mean age = 48.51-years-old) recruited in the experimenters' social network, matched at the group level for age, gender, and educational level. All participants completed the Mini Cambridge Exeter Repetitive Thought Scale measuring abstract/analytic and concrete/experiential repetitive thinking modes as well as complementary psychopathological measures (Beck Depression Inventory and State/Trait Anxiety Inventory). Alcohol-dependent individuals have similar levels of concrete repetitive thinking as controls but report significantly higher levels of abstract repetitive thinking (p < 0.001; d = 1.28). This effect remains significant after controlling for depression and anxiety. Relative to healthy controls, alcohol-dependent patients report more frequent use of abstract/analytic repetitive thinking, with preserved concrete/experiential thinking. Despite the cross-sectional nature of the study, the frequent use of abstract repetitive thinking thus appears to constitute a main feature of alcohol-dependence.

Keywords: Alcohol-dependence; abstract thinking mode; cognitive bias; concrete thinking mode; repetitive thinking.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Thinking* / drug effects