Shocking findings about emotional regulation and impulsivity in early recovery:
Background: Early abstinence from chronic alcohol dependence is associated with increased emotional sensitivity to stress-related craving as well as changes in brain systems associated with stress and emotional processing. The aim of the current study was to examine potential difficulties in emotion regulation during early alcohol abstinence using the recently validated Difficulties of Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS).
Method: Recently abstinent treatment-seeking alcohol abusers (n = 50) completed the DERS during their first week of inpatient treatment and at discharge (5 weeks later). These responses were compared to a group of social drinkers (n = 62).
Results: Compared with social drinkers, alcohol-dependent patients reported significant differences in emotional awareness and impulse control during week 1 of treatment. Significant improvements in awareness and clarity of emotion were observed following 5 weeks of protracted abstinence. However, significant difficulties with impulse control persisted until discharge.
Conclusion: Findings from the DERS indicate protracted stress-related impulse control problems in abstinent alcoholics, which may contribute to increased relapse vulnerability.