Unhealthy Alcohol Use Associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms: The Moderating Effects of Anxiety and Depression

J Obsessive Compuls Relat Disord. 2022 Jan:32:100713. doi: 10.1016/j.jocrd.2022.100713. Epub 2022 Feb 8.


Alcohol use occurs among individuals with obsessive-compulsive symptoms at a rate significantly greater than the general population. In clinical populations, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance use disorders (SUD) have been shown to share neurological substrates, but little is known about the mechanisms underlying substance use in individuals with OCD. Aspects of anxiety and depression frequently contribute to various SUD and are thought to play a role in the relationship between increased substance use and obsessive-compulsive symptomatology. The present research examines the moderating effects of depression and several anxiety-related constructs (anxious arousal, anxiety sensitivity, and social anxiety) on the relationship between health risk resulting from alcohol use and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in university students (n = 178). The physical concerns and social concerns subscales of the Anxiety Sensitivity Index increased the relationship between risky drinking and total OCD symptoms (as measured with the OCI-12). Additionally, general depression and social anxiety significantly increased the relationship between risky alcohol use and the obsessing dimension. All relationships were of a small to medium effect size. These findings help identify emotionally vulnerable subgroups of persons with OCD that may have greater liability for risky alcohol use.

Keywords: Alcohol Use; Anxiety; Anxiety Sensitivity; Depression; Obsessing; Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Substance Use.