Alcohol and violence

Anxiolysis theory

It has been suggested that the cognitive impairments described above may in turn have specific psychological effects such as 'anxiolysis': reduced anxiety (Sayette, 1993). The 'anxiolysis-disinhibition' theory argues that the experience of anxiety normally results in suppression of socially unacceptable behaviours such as aggression, that the cognitive disruptions produced by drinking affect our perception of anxiety-eliciting cues in a social situation, and that this reduced anxiety makes us less likely to suppress aggressive responses.

While this theory has some merit (not least in providing an impressive-sounding scientific term for what is popularly known as 'Dutch courage'), it merely identifies one of the processes by which alcoholic cognitive impairments can lead to aggression – leaving us still with the task of explaining why, in most drinking contexts, reduced anxiety does not in fact result in aggressive behaviour.

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