Magazine article USA TODAY

Why Nonheterosexual Women Drink to Excess

Magazine article USA TODAY

Why Nonheterosexual Women Drink to Excess

Article excerpt

Nonheterosexual women who feel a disconnect between who they are attracted to and how they identify themselves may have a higher risk of alcohol abuse, maintains a study led by Amelia E. Talley, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

"There's a lot of research that shows people who are not heterosexual-that is, those who are bisexual, gay, or lesbian--have higher levels of alcohol use disorders, but it was not clear what explains that disparity aside from looking at the feet that they identify as nonheterosexual, which was not satisfying to me as a reason, per se," says Tally.

According to cognitive dissonance theory, humans like to be consistent in their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors and, when they are not, that difference causes discomfort. "When you perform a role, for instance, if you identify as a college student, you know there are norms or expectations that go along with that role," Talley explains. "People who know what their expected sexual identity entails might sometimes feel shame or a negative effect as a result of not performing or identifying in the way that is expected."

Similarly, the result can occur internally. If a woman finds herself behaving in a way that does not match up with how she views herself, that creates an internal conflict between how she behaves and how she thinks she should behave based on her sexual orientation.

"We presume such a discrepancy would be uncomfortable, which might lead to self-medicating: using drugs and alcohol to alleviate self-focus and take away negative affectivity by distracting themselves from these inconsistencies. We thought people would be more likely to report hazardous drinking, that is, drinking to intoxication, binge drinking, and other negative consequences associated with drinking. …

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