Date of Conferral
Dr. Ronald Browne
Women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often develop alcohol use disorders (AUD) resulting from the use of alcohol to self-medicate from negative affect. Research supports the relationship between comorbid PTSD and AUD, and studies with women additionally identify the role of rumination, or excessive thinking about distress and its causes, as a precipitating aspect leading to self-medication. Female-based data is sparse, however, regarding specific thought patterns and factors which trigger the need to self-medicate with alcohol. Numerous researchers have studied the relationship between stress, anxiety, and alcohol use, although, there exists a need for qualitative studies providing thick, rich information. Applying the self-medication model and rumination theory, the purpose of this study was to use a transcendental research framework as a lens to explore and describe the phenomenon of how women with comorbid PTSD and AUD make sense of their dual disorder. Qualitative data were gathered from in-depth interviews of 12 women who participated in Alcoholics Anonymous groups in a large Southeastern city. The women collectively described their lived experience with the phenomenon as an internally-focused strategy premised on the notion of a 'Higher Power.' They reported using this strategy to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which triggered negative self-assessment and the need to self-medicate with alcohol. This research contributes to the literature by offering a more detailed understanding of comorbid PTSD and AUD. Positive social change can be achieved with a better understanding of the etiology of female trauma and the factors that trigger alcohol relapse in women with PTSD.