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Mindfulness training for clinically elevated social anxiety: The impact on peak drinking

Research shows that social anxiety may be related to drinking-related problems including drinking more before social events and drinking to cope with social anxiety. Research has also shown that mindfulness-based interventions may help to reduce social anxiety. These mindfulness-based interventions may help to reduce alcohol use especially use due to social anxiety. The current study looked at whether mindfulness training impacted undergraduate students and their drinking habits.

To complete the study, 58 participants were recruited from Louisiana State University. Participants had to be at least 18 years of age, have clinically elevated social anxiety, and be able to complete a two-week study protocol. Participants also were tested for a baseline peak estimated blood alcohol content (eBAC). They were split into two groups with one receiving mindfulness training and the other a thinking-as-usual control. After the training, the participants were contacted every evening to report on their social situations. They were also told to engage in either the mindfulness or thinking-as-usual intervention. This was followed up with a questionnaire on their state anxiety. Finally, one month later they were asked to assess their drinking, state anxiety, and mindfulness.

Researchers found that the participants who received the mindfulness training, had clinically elevated social anxiety, and a higher baseline peak eBAC showed lower peak eBAC at the one-month follow-up compared to those who did not receive the training. Results also showed that those presenting with elevated social anxiety and heavier drinking had worse longer term mindfulness-related outcomes. This may show that they are not able to engage in mindfulness techniques as well as one normally would. Clinical implications from this study may show participants with clinically elevated social anxiety along with drinking-related problems may benefit from mindfulness training addressing these topics       

Take Away: Social anxiety may be related to drinking-related problems, especially in undergraduate students. The current study took 58 participants that were at least 18 years of age and have clinically elevated social anxiety. The participants were tested for a baseline peak estimated blood alcohol content (eBAC) and half received mindfulness training throughout the two week study protocol. Researchers found that of those who received the mindfulness training showed lower peak eBAC at the one-month follow-up compared to those who did not receive the training. This study has important clinical implications in that it shows that participants with clinically elevated social anxiety along with drinking-related problems may benefit from mindfulness training addressing their social anxiety and drinking habits.        

Buckner, J. D., Lewis, E. M., Abarno, C. N., & Heimberg, R. G. (2020). Mindfulness training for clinically elevated social anxiety: The impact on peak drinking. Addictive Behaviors, 104, 106282. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106282

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