The Morning After: Limit Violations and the Self-Regulation of Alcohol Consumption


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Abstract

The authors examined whether the reciprocal relationship between alcohol consumption and distress unfolded over time in 2 samples of social drinkers. Participants monitored their alcohol intake and their cognitive and emotional responses to that drinking on hand-held computers. On mornings after drinking, those who had violated their self-imposed limits the day before reported more guilt, even after controlling for acute negative symptoms of drinking and amount consumed. Reciprocally, guilt led to poorer self-regulation of alcohol intake: Greater distress over alcohol consumption was linked to more intake, intoxication, and more limit violations. Individual differences moderated the relationships among limit violations, distress, and drinking. Consistent with the limit violation effect, violating a limit produced distress over consumption among social drinkers, and they responded to that distress by drinking more.

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