Addictive behaviors in alcohol use disorder: dysregulation of reward processing systems and maladaptive coping strategies

J Addict Dis. Jul-Dec 2018;37(3-4):173-184. doi: 10.1080/10550887.2019.1643211. Epub 2019 Sep 9.


DSM-5 has included within the substance-related and addictive disorders diagnostic category behavioral addictions, such as gambling disorder. Some scholars also considered ICD-11 compulsive sex as a behavioral addiction. Furthermore, an addiction model of dysfunctional eating behaviors has been proposed. Consistently, the existence of common addiction mechanisms related to substance and non-substance related disorders has been hypothesized. Nevertheless, this approach was called into question, especially considering alternative processes which might be implicated in such conditions. This study aims to compare these opposite theoretical positions concerning substance- and nonsubstance related disorders, investigating the latent structure of addictive behaviors among alcohol use disorder (AUD) individuals. Addictive behaviors were self-reported assessed using the Shorter PROMIS Questionnaire (SPQ). We recruited 456 (59.2% male; 40.8% female) AUD treatment-seeking patients. Two latent structures were tested using a confirmatory factor analytic approach. We compared a one-factor (i.e., common addiction mechanisms) with a two-factor solution (i.e., dysregulation of reward processing systems and maladaptive coping strategies). The two-factor solution showed adequate goodness-of-fit indexes. Specifically, dysregulation of the reward processing systems dimension predicted the SPQ illicit and prescription drugs, gambling, and sex subscales. Conversely, the maladaptive coping strategies dimension predicted the SPQ compulsive buying, binge eating and food restriction subscales. The latent dimensions significantly correlated with each other. Compulsive sex might be preliminarily considered as a behavioral addiction. AUD individuals might show complex patterns of maladaptive behaviors functionally related to different latent processes. Differential treatment approaches are suggested to treat these conditions.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorder; behavioral addictions; dysregulation of reward processing systems; maladaptive coping strategies; substance-related and addictive disorders.