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Title: Emotional and autonomic dysregulation in abstinent alcoholic men: An idiosyncratic profile?
Author(s): A. Romero-Martinez, S. Vitoria-Estruch and L. Moya-Albiol
Journal: Alcohol
Year: 2019
Volume: 77
Pages: 155-162
DOI: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2019.01.007
File URL: /vuams-pubs/Emotional and autonomic dysregulation in abstinent alcoholic men_ An idiosyncratic profile_ _ Elsevier Enhanced Reader.html
Keywords: alcohol misuse, acute stress, heart rate variability, pre-ejection period, vagal tone
Abstract: Men who misuse alcohol tend to experience negative affect, which may entail difficulties in regulatingemotions to cope effectively with stressful or anxiety-provoking situations, thus increasing the risk ofalcohol relapse. This dysphoric state has been associated with alexithymia, which compromises an in-dividual's abilities to acknowledge, recognize, and regulate emotional states. A physiological correlate ofemotional regulation is autonomicflexibility, as shown by emotional dysregulation in men who misusealcohol being correlated with reduced parasympathetic activation to control heart rate variability duringstress and/or conflict situations. Hence, the main aim of this study was to investigate whether long-termabstinent alcoholic (LTAA) men exhibit higher levels of negative affect and sympathetic activation(cardiovascular and electrodermal) in response to acute standardized laboratory stress than non-alcoholic controls. In addition, we hypothesized that the higher the alexithymic traits, the greaterwould be the increase in negative affect and sympathetic activation in response to stress, especially inLTAAs. Our data demonstrated that LTAAs experienced slightly greater increases in anxiety, states ofanger, and worsening of mood than controls. Moreover, they exhibited lower high-frequency heart ratevariability, respiratory sinus arrhythmia values, shorter pre-ejection periods, and higher respiratory ratesthan controls. Finally, alexithymic traits imply greater worsening of mood and sympathetic predomi-nance (shorter pre-ejection periods and smaller magnitude of response), with the associations beingstronger in LTAAs. Thesefindings indicate a different emotional and cardiovascular response to psy-chosocial stress in LTAA than non-alcoholic men. Improving our knowledge of the way this populationreacts to stress may help identify risk factors for alcohol relapse.

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