Does comorbid anxiety or depression moderate effects of approach bias modification in the treatment of alcohol use disorders?

E. Salemink*, M. Rinck, E. Becker, R.W. Wiers, J. Lindenmeyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Approach bias modification (ApBM) is a promising new add-on training intervention for patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Given that comorbid anxiety and major depressive disorders are very common in AUD, and that such comorbidity affects psychological treatments negatively, the primary aim of the present study was investigating whether ApBM training is moderated by anxiety/major depressive disorder comorbidity. The secondary aim was to examine whether ApBM’s relapse-preventive effect can be replicated. Method: We conducted a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) in a clinical sample of AUD inpatients (n = 729) with a follow-up assessment after 1 year. All patients received 12 weeks of inpatient treatment as usual (TAU). On top of that, patients were randomized to a 12-session ApBM (TAU + ApBM), and a no-training control condition (TAU-only). Treatment success was defined as either no relapse or a single lapse shorter than 3 days in duration, ended by the patient and followed by at least 4 weeks of abstinence. Failure was defined as relapse, passed away, no contact, or refusal to provide information. Results: We found that TAU + ApBMhad significantly higher success rates than TAU-only at 1-year follow-up. Importantly, anxiety/depressive comorbidity moderated ApBM’s effects: Adding ApBM to TAU increased success rates more for patients with a comorbid anxiety and/or depressive disorder than for patients without such comorbidity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-554
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number5
Early online dateJun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • alcohol dependence
  • approach bias modification
  • comorbid anxiety disorder
  • comorbid major depressive disorder
  • relapse prevention


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