Social anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse tend to go hand in hand. Typically, it begins by self-medicating with alcohol to ease the pain of social anxiety. Social anxiety can have a negative impact on family, friends, and careers. Social anxiety symptoms may include:
- Fear of judgment or rejection
- Difficulty holding a conversation with others
- Severe self-consciousness
- Severe anxiety anticipating an event or gathering
- Nausea or fidgeting
Alcohol consumption tends to be acceptable in most social situations, therefore, making it the most common form of self-medicating. This can be a dangerous combination.
Some people, who suffer from social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, use alcohol to reduce the effects of their nervousness. Self-medicating tends to become more than just social drinking. This eventually leads to alcoholism or substance abuse. Two of the most common reasons people with social anxiety drink alcohol to relieve anxiety symptoms are described below.
First, when a person has an overwhelming sense of anxiety about an upcoming event or presentation, they may use alcohol before or after to numb the effects. However, the numbness is only temporary, but it still brings the person relief, if only for the time being.
Secondly, alcohol gives the person the perception that a social setting will be more bearable reducing their anxiety symptoms. Paralyzing the fear when they have to endure a social gathering or event may subside when they drink alcohol before, during or after. They may feel more at ease when they have to interact.
So much of one’s life involves social interaction. Therefore, the need to reduce the anxiety can become overwhelming. However, drinking alcohol as a way to relax or numb the fear is not healthy or safe for one’s well-being.
Effects of Alcohol Use
Alcohol is only a quick and short-lived fix for relieving anxiety. While it may seem that drinking alcohol makes you feel more at ease in a social setting, the long-term effects on your health can be devastating. Alcohol is a depressant which affects the central nervous system negatively.
Drinking alcohol is known to raise a person’s blood pressure, increase tension, and raise adrenaline levels. These effects can make a social situation worse rather than better. It can cause a person to make mistakes which could make their anxiety levels increase and abuse alcohol more. This is a vicious cycle that can spiral out of control very quickly.
Excessive alcohol abuse directly affects you and your family. You could hurt yourself or others around you. Some people who drink alcohol have a hard time determining when they have had too much or think they are still sober enough to drive a vehicle. Work can also suffer if you are not performing as good as you are expected to, or even calling in and missing work to recover or drink more.
Long-term Effects of Alcohol Use
The long-term health effects of alcoholism far outweigh the short-term relief of anxiety. People who chronically abuse alcohol are at risk of liver disease, high blood pressure or hypertension, stroke, and/or stomach issues. The risk of some cancers increases as well.
Healthy Ways to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder
If you are not ready to speak with a professional regarding your social anxiety disorder, there are ways you may be able to cope that are healthy. First, you must not use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. If you can stop drinking on your own, these tips will be more effective. The following healthy options to treat social anxiety may be easier with a supportive partner or friend.
- Meditation or deep-breathing exercises.
- Anxiety workbooks provide exercises to try.
- Exercise when anxiety starts to rise.
How to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder and Co-Occurring Alcohol Abuse
First and foremost, it is essential to understand that your social anxiety is not something you have to live with. Social anxiety disorder is a mental health issue that is treatable with therapy. However, you must be upfront with all forms of self-medication you are currently using to have an effective treatment plan.
A professionally trained therapist will use talk therapy or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to find out the underlying issues you are dealing with. Your therapist will help you understand how negative thoughts and feelings affect your behaviors and social interactions.
Your therapy sessions will help you face social situations with a different outlook and understanding to reduce the fear. You may even be involved in anxiety-inducing situations, so your therapist can actively help you overcome and deal with your fears. Relaxation therapy may also be effective.
For more severe cases, your therapist may suggest prescription anti-anxiety medications as an additive to your therapy. However, you must understand these medications will never cure your social anxiety. You must continue therapy sessions and treatment. Medication will only temporarily relieve the tension and anxiety feelings. For someone who is suffering from alcohol abuse along with social anxiety, medication may not be the best answer as it could cause another addiction to occur.
Your alcohol use disorder may decrease or end completely with social anxiety disorder treatment. However, this is not always the case. Typically, a person suffering from social anxiety with alcoholism must be treated for the alcohol use disorder also. When you have co-occurring disorders, all must be treated to prevent the other co-occurring disorder from becoming more prevalent.
If you or a loved one is suffering from social anxiety disorder and/or alcohol use disorder, seeking treatment is the most effective way to becoming healthy again. Contact Serenity Acres where trained professionals are prepared to customize a treatment plan for you.