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Social Anxiety and Addiction

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Battling Social Anxiety and Addiction Simultaneously


Social anxiety can leave a person feeling intense fear, emotional stress, and utter hopelessness. Paralyzed by their phobia, sufferers usually avoid social situations like parties, dates, and even family gatherings. Simply put, they may only enjoy the company of the few they are comfortable with. Along those lines, they may dread having to meet new people. Whatever the case may be, social anxiety truly takes its toll.

When you couple social anxiety and addiction, the results are nothing short of extreme difficulty. However, their pairing is nothing new.

The coexistence of these illnesses is a very common situation. In fact, these co-occurring disorders may feed into one another. Meaning when someone has one, they are likely to suffer from the other. The link between the two is very present. Recognizing their existence together and the signs to watch for is crucial to living a happier life.

Overall, there are some general symptoms of social anxiety that are very noticeable. For example, rapid speech or shaking. Likewise, there are certain things that can trigger social anxiety. Specifically, being somewhere that may remind the individual of a trauma they have experienced.

Ultimately, there are many ways to help social anxiety and addiction if one is willing to ask for help. There are always options available for those who are ready to listen.


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48% of those with a substance abuse disorder also have symptoms of anxiety

Defining Social Anxiety


The definition of social anxiety is “one having an intense fear of being watched or judged by those around them.” Moreover, this fear is almost impossible to subdue. It is nearly all-encompassing on an emotional level and may even have an effect on the person physically.

Overall, the feeling of social anxiety can inhibit relationships, friendships, and even impact your professional life. It is not something to be taken lightly. The individual suffering can not simply wish it away. Like having a long term physical illness, those with this affliction may need medical help.

The onset of the illness usually occurs at 13 years of age or older. However, like other mental illnesses, it can go for years before an individual receives an official diagnosis.

Social anxiety usually occurs during large social gatherings. Events like school, work, and religious activities where socializing is necessary may cause insufferable stress.

Similarly, even smaller gatherings may be anxiety-provoking. Spending time with a few close friends, going on a date, or meeting with a manager or teacher can cause feelings of intense fear.

When you add an addiction on top of this, it can be challenging.


The Link Between Addiction and Social Anxiety


Similar to other mental illnesses that may coexist with addiction, like bipolar disorder and depression, social anxiety can often fuel the addictive behaviors. In fact, they work and feed off of each other.

When an individual struggles with social anxiety, they may seek out a substance to help them deal with interpersonal interaction. To put it simply, they may be self-medicating to deal with the stress.

Self medication will almost always lead to an addiction because the individual cannot function without it. The stress becomes too much, leaving them wondering how they can get by on their own.

Consequently, this will create a strong dependency on the substance when they need to socialize. As a result, they may become dependent on it all the time, thus leading to substance abuse.

Therefore, the individual may cycle this way until they have an addiction. This is what is known as the cycle of addiction. A cycle that is very difficult to halt once it is in motion.

However, there are ways to break this cycle. This way involves avoiding certain situations that may result in substance abuse.

Even before it can begin, an individual must be triggered by something around them. Most of the time when engaging in such behaviors, the individual will need to hit a trigger.

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Common triggers of social anxiety are public speaking, large group settings, and eating in public.

Triggers of Social Anxiety and Addiction


trigger is defined as “external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms”.  They are something an individual will want to avoid at all costs. However, they are incredibly important for an individual to understand.

Common triggers of social anxiety are getting called on at school or work, public speaking, and eating or drinking in public. Many times these events may lead the individual into a full-blown panic attack, discouraging self-talk, and exceeding despair.

Although the fear might be there, some may not understand exactly what they are going through. An undiagnosed mental illness such as Social Anxiety can lead to an addiction that is developed through attempts to self-medicate. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • A strong feeling of anxiety
  • Trembling
  • Panic attacks
  • A raised heart rate

Although the affliction of social anxiety and addiction can be very troublesome, there are some practical exercises to do that can help you. Exercising them can make all the difference.


Simple Tips to Help Ease Social Anxiety


Even though they can be very small and simple, these tips can have a big impact. For this reason, their promotion from psychological professionals is completely valid.

Here are some tips:

  • Steady Breathing – Whenever you want to calm down, try focusing on your breathing. Slow and steady breathing is key to going from fight or flight mode to relaxation. The reason for this is because oxygen will stop the flow of adrenaline into your brain. Thus, promoting rationality.
  • Muscle Relaxation – Along with this, try soothing your muscles with each breath you take. Doing so will relax you physically and mentally.
  • Ask Questions – Try asking yourself these questions: Is anything trying to hurt me? Is this rational? Have they ever done this in the past? Doing this will help you gain a rational perspective. Ultimately, maintaining rational thought is the most important thing to remember.

Learning how to use these simple tools can benefit you greatly. Nevertheless, they may be easy to know but hard to perfect. Consistent practice should help one in perfecting them.

However, there will be times when an individual may face something beyond these tools. Likewise, sometimes social anxiety and addiction is so severe that you need help from a medical professional.

When the pain is too much to bear, asking for help is very important. This is when therapy comes in handy.


The Obstacles to Learning How to be Comfortable in Recovery

Helping You Find Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders Like Social Anxiety and Addiction

Treatment for Addiction and Social Anxiety

Fortunately, A Better Today Recovery Services specializes in helping you find treatment for co-occurring disorders with addiction. We can connect you with the tools and services available to aid anyone desiring full recovery.

Here are just a few tools that will help with social anxiety and addiction:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Receiving psychotherapy might be scary. However, the positive things that come from it will change your life. By far, it is the most effective treatment for addiction and social anxiety.
  • Social Skills Coaching – Sometimes all we need is a little help. With social coaching, one can learn how to interact with people in a non-stressful way. This is an excellent help who feel otherwise a bit awkward or unsure of how to be in social situations.
  • Medication – There are numerous medications that can be effectively used to combat symptoms of social anxiety. While medication is not an option that some want to explore, it’s important to know that it exists an option in addition to other therapies.

In addition, there are other types of therapies that can help as well. With the progress that has been made in the area of clinical psychology, there are plenty of options available.

To summarize, these are just a few of the tools at your disposal when seeking treatment. Seeking help and having hope are the first steps in the recovery process.

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Some may think they are too far along the path of addiction. Others will simply say there is no hope for them. These thoughts are both false.

There is always hope for a better tomorrow. However, the decisions we make today greatly influence our future well being. When struggling, it is always necessary to ask for help. Although it is not easy, sometimes it must be done.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and can’t break the cycle, call ABTRS. We have licensed, trained staff who will connect you find the treatment that is right for you. We have seen many successes and invite you to reach out.

[1] Social anxiety impacts willingness to participate in addiction treatment.(n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671294/

[2] Social anxiety and peer helping in adolescent addiction treatment. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4649935/

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