Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, and addiction can go hand in hand. Social anxiety disorder can be described as an “overpowering self consciousness” that does not allow a person to be able to interact with others in normal and everyday situations. This can lead the person to use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their disorder. Social anxiety disorder completely disrupts a person’s life, if it is combined with a drug or alcohol addiction, it can be extremely destructive.
Social Anxiety Disorder Explained
Social anxiety disorder, SAD, or social phobia is an intense fear that a person has. This fear is of being embarrassed, humiliated, or negatively judged by other people, typically in social situations. It is not just a feeling of being shy or nervous, the anxiety or fear of these situations is so intense that a person suffering from SAD will do anything to avoid the situations.
Specific or Multiple Situations
Social anxiety disorder can be limited to only specific situations; such as, public speaking. It can also happen to a person during multiple situations; like talking to strangers or unfamiliar people, using a public toilet, speaking on the phone, speaking in front of an audience, or even writing in front of people.
Oftentimes, exposure to a feared situation will provoke anxiety, which may manifest as a panic attack. Although the sufferer realises that the fears are irrational or excessive, they will often try to avoid the feared situation. If they are exposed to the feared situation, they will endure it with intense anxiety and distress. This can significantly interfere with their normal routine, social activities, or relationships.
Millions of People Suffer
Research has shown that approximately 13 percent of the population has social anxiety disorder symptoms. This disorder usually develops during adolescence, and is normally before any substance abuse has begun.
Social Anxiety and Addiction
When a person has social anxiety they may realize that their fears of certain situations are irrational or excessive, but they do not know how to handle it. When they encounter these situations they may have intense anxiety and distress; almost like a panic attack. To help with these feelings, the person may use drugs or alcohol. Drugs or alcohol may help the person to feel more relaxed, because they believe it is the cure, they continue to drink or use.
The person may begin to feel like they need drugs or alcohol just to be able to function; this way of thinking can cause them to develop an addiction. Once they have developed an addiction, they not only have the problems of the typical addict, but they may have to get past the fear of social interaction in recovery.
There are various types of addictions that a person suffering from social anxiety disorder can have. These can be from compulsive eating, watching TV, or exercising. Many experts say that these are addictions; however, they are not psychologically addicting; meaning they have not altered the functioning of the brain.
The person’s behaviour or reasoning for doing these things in excess are normally done to distract or numb the anxiety while at the same time helping them to avoid the situations that may worsen their feelings.
One Addictions Leads to Another
These addictions or these things that are done in excess can begin to cause other problems for the person. For example, if they are overeating they may become depressed about their weight. This depression may make the person want to use some sort of drug or drink alcohol to block out their feelings.
If a person is only watching excessive amounts of TV, they may drink or use to make the time go by quicker. What may have started off as an addiction without drugs or alcohol is turning into an addiction on top of an addiction because of social anxiety disorder.
Alcohol Addiction and Social Anxiety Disorder
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately one in five social anxiety disorder sufferers’ abuses or has an addiction to alcohol. This may be because alcohol is a chemical substance that helps to reduce tension and provides a calming effect.
Alcohol may initially seem to relieve the feelings of fear or anxiety, but it will eventually cause anxious or depressive symptoms itself. With heavy abuse or a developed addiction, the person may experience insomnia, mood changes, and anxiety attacks.
Consuming alcohol for social anxiety disorder will not only lead to an addiction, but it will create a vicious cycle; meaning that the person will consume alcohol for their SAD, have feelings of depression or anxiety that follow their use, and to escape these feelings, they will drink more alcohol.
Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder and Addiction
As with other types of anxiety disorders, those who suffer from social anxiety often attempt to self medicate and relax by using alcohol or drugs; overtime, they develop an addiction. It is important for people suffering from SAD and that have an addiction get help immediately.
Treatment at a Rehab
Depending on the addiction, a person may need to go through a detox before entering a rehab center for treatment. Individual therapy and group counseling will help to address their drug or alcohol addiction. At the same time, they can be given help for their social anxiety disorder; sometimes, this could include the use of medications.
Research has shown that SAD sufferers greatly benefit from psychotherapies; such as, cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT therapy will teach the person the skills to replace their old coping behaviors with new, positive ones.