What are the psychological theories of alcoholism?

Updated: Nov 27, 2018
  • Author: Warren Thompson, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Answer

Behavioral models explain alcohol abuse in terms of learning theory. Through operant conditioning, the reinforcing elements of alcohol use become habitual.

Cognitive models explain alcohol abuse in terms of “automatic thoughts,” which precede the person’s more identifiable feelings about alcohol. For example, an automatic thought might be “I deserve a drink because I’ve had a rough day."

Psychoanalytic models explain alcohol abuse in terms of ego defenses and intrapsychic conflicts. The alcohol serves as a way to escape the uncomfortable internal conflict.


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