Relationship between Alcohol Use Disorder and Expression Suppression among Youth Seeking Help in Rehabilitation Centers in Kiambu County, Kenya

Triple A Res. J. Soc. Sci. and Human. (JSSH)
Vol. 2(2): 067 – 078, July 2018

Full Length Research Paper

Muthusi Stephen Katembu and Luke Odiemo Okunya*
Department of Psychology, University of Nairobi, Kenya


Several factors such as stressful environment, poverty and coming from a drinking family have been cited as being some of the reasons behind alcohol use and abuse due to the emotional disturbance they induce. However, these factors alone may not necessarily precipitate a drinking problem. It is the manner in which individuals handle the emotional states stimulated by such factors that may moderate between those factors and tendency to abuse alcohol. This makes emotion regulation strategies an important consideration in the development of Alcohol Use Disorder. One such strategy is Expression suppression, i.e., the attempt to hide, inhibit, stifle, or reduce ongoing emotion-expressive behavior. Being a response-focused strategy, expression suppression is deployed when emotions are fully underway, and behavioural responses are fully generated, thus challenging an individual’s inner cognitive resources to reign over the emotion. Alcohol may therefore, be used to escape from emotional distress and a means to self-medicate inner emotional states resulting from the use of such a strategy. To explore this supposition, the relationship between and alcohol use disorder and expression suppression among youth seeking help in rehabilitation centers in Kiambu County was studied. Using a correlation design, the expression suppression scale of the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) and the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) were applied. Data was collected from 33 (23M/10F) youths between 15-35 years seeking help in three rehabilitation centers for alcohol abuse. These youths were compared to a similar group of 33 (20F/13M) youths who had never used alcohol, or any other substance of abuse, and 12 (8F/6M) others who had stayed alcohol free for a year after rehabilitation or quitting alcohol. Results indicated that participants with AUD deployed expression suppression the most with an average score of 4.5, compared to those who had been through rehabilitation (3.6) and complete abstainers (3.9). Further, a Pearson’s correlation test found a positive and significant relationship between AUD and expression suppression. (r=0.268, p<0.01). Expression suppression may therefore represent a maladaptive emotion regulation strategy when individuals are faced by stressful life events. Integrating adaptive emotion regulation skills training in healthcare and rehabilitation settings, may lead to higher success rates in rehabilitation.

Keywords: Emotion regulation. Expression Suppression. Alcohol Use Disorder

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