About 15 million adults in the United States experience a social anxiety disorder in a given year. Unfortunately, many of those individuals turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. With alcohol being socially accepted by most people, helping someone lower their inhibitions, and overall allowing them to loosen up a bit, alcohol is the go-to substance for those with social anxiety. However, the problem starts when these individuals start resorting to alcohol for most social activities, including work, family gatherings, school, and more. Sadly, many fall down the path of alcohol addiction without realizing that their coping mechanisms have turned toxic. Let’s explore some alternatives to alcohol for social anxiety that are not addictive.
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Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder
There’s a misconception that social anxiety means someone is shy or awkward. However, social anxiety disorder is the second most common psychiatric disorder, second to depression. Someone with a social anxiety disorder implies they have a deep irrational fear of humiliation, they avoid social situations altogether, or experience them with extreme anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, usually begins during adolescence, but it rarely improves without treatment. Someone with social anxiety feels extreme fear in almost all social situations, anything from talking to a cashier at a store to a job interview. They also struggle to do everyday things like eating or drinking in front of others. They have an internal fear that they’ll be humiliated, rejected, and judged. Someone with an anxiety disorder has no control over this fear. As a result, they miss school, work and avoid social situations.
How to Recognize Social Anxiety
So far, the root cause of social anxiety remains unknown. Some researchers believe that there’s a hereditary component to it, but they’re not sure its genetics or the environment. These are some of the most common signs of social anxiety disorders:
- Extreme difficulty engaging with others
- Constant fear of judgment
- Avoidance of social interactions
- Feelings of lightheadedness, trembling, and nausea around others
- Excessive worrying before social events
- Erratic sleep patterns
- High levels of self-consciousness
- Trouble with concentration
- Constant self-analysis of performance during social situations
- Enduring social situations with extreme fear
The Link Between Alcohol and Social Anxiety
It’s known that there’s a strong connection between alcohol and social anxiety. Research shows that alcohol use disorders frequently co-occur with anxiety disorders. Estimates say that close to 20% of social disorder anxiety patients also struggle with alcohol abuse or dependence. Unfortunately, recent studies suggest these numbers are increasing.
Using Alcohol for Coping
Also known as “alcohol courage,” this is when people turn to alcohol to reduce inhibitions, increase their confidence, and hide their social anxiety behind a drunk personality. For many, positive experiences of less social anxiety while under the influence, get them to start drinking alcohol.
This tension reduction therapy reduces stress and anxiety, therefore assuming their social anxiety has improved. However, the problem starts when they turn to excessive drinking because they associate alcohol use with reduced feelings of anxiety. Eventually, this can lead to an unhealthy addiction cycle.
Alcohol is a depressant. Therefore it has a sedative effect, which is why people take it to relax. However, once the effects of alcohol wear off, people can experience exacerbated symptoms of social anxiety. Plus, they might also experience irritability, depression, and other common alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alternatives to Alcohol for Social Anxiety
Although the root cause of social anxiety remains unknown, experts agree that alcohol is not a healthy coping mechanism. Besides, alcohol only masks the problem instead of treating whatever is triggering these anxiety reactions. It’s best to find healthy alternatives to alcohol for social anxiety, such as attend psychiatric disorders such as social anxiety with professional therapy.
Both alcohol abuse and social anxiety disorders are treatable conditions. Research shows that a comprehensive and holistic approach that incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational therapy works well for co-occurring disorders. CBT teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help them feel less anxious and fearful. It can also help them learn and practice social skills in CBt group settings.
While it can be intimidating at first, people suffering from social anxiety can find support groups helpful. When everyone in the room shares the same issues, it can be easier to talk about feelings. Besides, people receive unbiased feedback about how they feel; there’s no judgment or rejection involved. It can also be a safe environment to learn how others try different approaches for improving their anxiety symptoms.
In some cases, someone with a co-occurring disorder might benefit from medication. Three types of drugs could work, including anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Each of these medications can help people with social anxiety disorder. This might be additionally helpful when someone is already struggling with substance abuse.
With co-occurring disorders, it can be more challenging to make progress in rehab programs. Since it’s paramount to attend to both conditions simultaneously, medications can help manage the anxiety disorder so people can focus on their rehab program better.
Don’t give up on treatment too quickly. Both psychotherapy and medication can take some time to work. A healthy lifestyle can also help combat anxiety. Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and turn to family and friends who you trust for support.
Finding Help for Alcohol Addiction Near Me
Both anxiety disorders and alcohol addiction can destroy you or a loved one’s life. It doesn’t have to be that way. Lighthouse Recovery Institute is one of the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in South Florida. Our unique approach to comprehensive treatment and holistic therapies ensure your individual needs are taken care of.
Our therapists don’t believe in cookie-cutter treatments. We take the time and commit to understanding each patient’s stories, background, family environment, and more. Only then, we discuss a multi-disciplinary approach that prioritizes your well-being and overall health.
If you or someone you know is struggling with social anxiety disorder and alcoholism, please know you’re not alone. We are here to help you receive the help you need, and we’ll be here supporting you through every step of the recovery process. When you need us the most, we’ll be there for you and your family. Please, contact us today to learn more about treatment programs and our admissions process. Addiction treatment is the one thing that should never wait.