Personality and alcohol-related risk: Neuroticism, extraversion, and alexithymia

Michael Lyvers*, Megan Boileau, Fred Arne Thorberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Previous research has established associations of neuroticism and extraversion with risky or problematic alcohol use in both clinical and nonclinical samples. More recently, alexithymia-a personality trait defined by difficulties in identifying and describing feelings as well as concrete thinking-has been implicated as a risk factor for problematic drinking; however, whether it is an independent risk factor or overlaps with others has not been determined. The present study examined neuroticism, extraversion, and alexithymia in relation to risky drinking in a nonclinical sample of 285 alcohol consumers aged 18-60 years. Neuroticism and extraversion were measured with the International Personality Item Pool Big Five Factor Markers, whereas alexithymia was measured with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test provided an index of alcohol-related risk. Hierarchical regression indicated that neuroticism, extraversion, and alexithymia were all significant positive predictors of risky drinking after controlling for demographic and mood variables. Alexithymia was positively related to neuroticism, and both were negatively related to extraversion. The relationship between alexithymia and risky drinking was partially mediated by neuroticism, and the association of alexithymia with neuroticism was partially mediated by negative mood. Neuroticism, extraversion, and alexithymia appear to be independently related to alcohol-related risk, although the influence of alexithymia may partially overlap with that of neuroticism. Both alexithymia and neuroticism are associated with proneness to negative moods; a reliance on drinking to cope with such states may account for the links of both traits to risky or problematic drinking in line with Cloninger's type I alcoholism. However, additional aspects of alexithymia may also contribute to its role in alcohol-related risk. The relationship of extraversion to risky drinking appears congruent with Cloninger's type II alcoholism, where high reward sensitivity motivates drinking to enhance positive states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-465
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychology
Volume132
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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