Alcohol use disorder recovery and relationships: the impact of family functioning on the pre-frontal cortex and romantic relationships of individuals in recovery from alcohol use disorder



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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a brain disease that impacts an individual’s behaviors, emotions, thoughts and brain functioning. The prefrontal cortex is negatively impacted by excessive alcohol use. These changes have resulting effects not only on an individual but also those surrounding them such as family, friends and romantic partners. In this way, AUD can also be considered a family disease, and these widespread negative effects among family members and partners are well established in the literature. More research is emerging that examines the involvement of family members and the important role they play as a recovery support system. This dissertation aims to add to this emerging literature on the importance of family on the recovery process, as well as increase understanding regarding the impact of AUD on romantic relationships. One study explores associations between family functioning and prefrontal cortex (PFC) functioning of an individual in recovery from an AUD. This is done using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR) as an imaging technique and correlating PFC activation patterns with subjective reports of general family functioning using the Family Assessment Device (FAD). A second study in this dissertation is a qualitative exploration of romantic relationships of those recovering from an AUD. This study seeks to understand the common stressors that exist when romantic relationships are formed during AUD recovery processes. For example, this study will examine questions such as “how does the individual’s coping style impact romantic relationship behaviors of people recovering from AUD?”, “how do strategies people use to cope conflict in their romantic relationships during AUD recovery influence their ability to maintain sobriety?”, and “how does an individual in recovery from AUD influence utilized coping strategies in their relationships”? We found that a higher family functioning score does correlate with activation of the PFC when presented with an alcohol image. We also found there exist some patterns in the coping strategies and stressors specific to relationships when examining individuals in recovery from and AUD. Results are discussed.



Alcohol use disorder, Family relationships, Family, Pre-frontal cortex, Romantic relationships, Neuroimaging, Grounded theory