Low problem recognition may be an important barrier to opportunities for self-change or help-seeking in harmful drinkers. Little is known about how the beliefs harmful drinkers hold about the nature and causes of alcohol problems affect problem recognition and subsequent behaviour change processes. Participants (n = 597) recruited online were randomised to one of two conditions designed to promote beliefs according to (a) a continuum model of alcohol problems or (b) a binary disease model, or (c) a control condition. Participants completed measures of alcohol problem beliefs, problem recognition and other indices including the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), addiction beliefs, addiction experience and demographics. Results showed that harmful drinkers without addiction experience exposed to the continuum condition had significantly higher problem recognition than those in binary disease model or control conditions. Continuum beliefs appear to offer self-evaluative benefits for harmful drinkers with low alcohol problem recognition, thus potentially facilitating help-seeking or self-change regarding alcohol use. Further research to understand the mechanisms by which continuum beliefs may promote more accurate drinking self-evaluation and its potential for behaviour change is warranted. The role of continuum beliefs may have important consequences for alcohol-related messaging and interventions seeking to promote self-change or help-seeking.
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