Background: Alcohol dependence is more prevalent among those with any one of several anxiety or depressive (“internalizing”) disorders than among those in the general population. However, because internalizing disorders are highly intercorrelated, it is ambiguous whether alcohol dependence is related to internalizing psychopathology components that are: (i) unique to a particular internalizing disorder (“specific”); versus (ii) shared across a number of internalizing disorders (“general”). To clarify this ambiguity, we employed structural equation and logistic models to decompose the specific versus general components of internalizing psychopathology and then related these components separately to alcohol dependence.
Methods: The data were based on face-to-face interviews of U.S. community residents collected in the 2001 to 2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; N = 43,093).
Results: Both analytic approaches demonstrated that increases in the general internalizing psychopathology load are accompanied by increases in the prevalence of alcohol dependence. Once the general internalizing psychopathology load is accounted for, knowing whether a particular internalizing disorder is present or absent provides little additional information regarding the prevalence of alcohol dependence.
Conclusions: The components of internalizing psychopathology that are associated with alcohol dependence are shared and cumulative among common anxiety and depressive disorders. These findings have the potential to influence clinical and scientific conceptualizations of the association between alcohol dependence and internalizing psychopathology.