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Social Anxiety and Addiction Facts

Social Anxiety and Addiction

Social anxiety and addiction commonly occur together. These conditions are known as co-occurring disorders, and they require a specific type of treatment.

Social Anxiety Information

For someone with social anxiety, their symptoms can become quite severe. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • 7% of the people in the United States have a social anxiety disorder.
  • This works out to be 15 million adults in the U.S.
  • 20% of those with social anxiety also have a substance abuse disorder.
  • These two disorders are actually much more common among women than among men.
  • Only a small percentage of those with social anxiety ever receive treatment for their conditions.

For those who struggle with social anxiety, they often live their lives in a paralyzed state. They spend their lives being afraid of interacting with other people. This can bring about feelings of self-consciousness. They're worried about being viewed negatively by others, or being judged by them. This results in avoiding them altogether.

It's not surprising that so many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with these feelings. For them, it often seems as though it's the only way to feel normal again. Even so, it is not a healthy way to deal with the symptoms at all.

At Northpoint Washington, we've worked with many people who have struggled with both social anxiety and addiction. We understand how the two conditions are connected with each other. We also know the best way to treat them.

Perhaps you have been struggling with social anxiety and addiction as well. You may have always thought that this was the only way for you to feel like yourself. So many people share that thought. You are not alone if you're battling these conditions, although it may seem that way, at times. Getting the right kind of addiction treatment can help you recover long-term.

You may find it to be very helpful to learn as much as you can about social anxiety. That way, you'll see how it connects with your substance abuse problem.

Defining Social Anxiety

“Social Anxiety Thing #213: Really wanting to talk to someone you'd like to become friends with but are too scared you'll embarrass yourself and they won't want to speak to you again.”

Social anxiety is an extreme fear of being judged or scrutinized by others in social situations. It is often referred to as social phobia. This disorder can cause a lot of problems for those who suffer from it. Sometimes shyness is mistaken for social anxiety, but the two are actually very different.

The symptoms of social anxiety interfere with the individual's daily life. People who have it have very few social relationships. They may have a hard time forming romantic relationships with other people. This can cause them to feel ashamed and alone. What's more, they feel powerless to do anything about their situations.

People with social anxiety know that their fears are excessive. However, they feel powerless to do anything about their anxiety levels. This will generally cause their levels of anxiety to increase.

About 36% of people with social anxiety disorder have symptoms for 10 years or more before getting treatment. This condition usually starts around 13 years of age, and it can persist through adulthood. It interferes with daily routines, job performance, and just about every other area of life.

The Different Types of Social Anxiety

Currently, the DSM-V only recognizes one type of social anxiety disorder. However, in the past, there were actually two types. These two types are:

Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder

People with this type of social anxiety have fears about performance and social situations, primarily. They may be afraid of talking with authority figures or giving speeches. They may also find it difficult to go on dates, begin conversations, or even be around people in general.

Usually, those with generalized social anxiety disorder are only comfortable around their family. This has always been thought to be a more severe form of the disorder. People who have it usually have a much more difficult time functioning day to day.

Specific Social Anxiety Disorder

For specific social anxiety disorder, the fears associated with this condition are linked to certain situations. People with this type have a higher level of functioning. These individuals may feel very much at ease when they are meeting people for the first time. However, they may experience a paralyzing fear when they have to speak in public.

Even though this form of social anxiety is thought to be much milder, it's still serious. It can cause people to have a hard time advancing in their careers or enjoying their lives fully.

What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?

There are actually many different symptoms that indicate that social anxiety may be present. These symptoms are broken down into groups.

The emotional symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Feeling very self-conscious and anxious in normal social situations
  • Worrying for a long time before an upcoming social event
  • Living in fear of being judged or watched by other people
  • Having an extreme fear about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Being afraid that other people will notice that you're nervous

The physical signs of social anxiety include:

  • Blushing or becoming red in the face
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Having an upset stomach
  • Experiencing butterflies in the stomach in social situations
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Having a shaky voice
  • Feeling tightness in the chest
  • Racing heart rate
  • Hot flashes or sweating
  • Feeling dizzy or faint

The behavioral symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Limiting activities that involve social situations
  • Disrupting your life to avoid social situations
  • Remaining quite to avoid being noticed or embarrassed
  • Feeling the need to go everywhere with a friend
  • Drinking alcohol or using drugs to soothe anxiety

Have you noticed any of the above signs or symptoms in your own life? If you have, you may have a social anxiety disorder.

Treating Social Anxiety Disorders Professionally

Quite often, people will attempt self-help techniques before they will agree to professional help for social anxiety. Sometimes these techniques work very well. They may attempt:

  • Various lifestyle changes to reduce their anxiety levels
  • Limiting their caffeine intake
  • Becoming more active
  • Quitting smoking
  • Increasing how much sleep they get at night

These methods can be helpful. However, more often than not, professional help is necessary. There are a few different types of therapy that work well for social anxiety. These include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This is an excellent way to treat social anxiety. It is based on the theory that changing the way you think affects the way you feel. How you feel affects your behaviors. CBT can help people to control their physical symptoms of anxiety. IT can also help them to look at social situations in new ways. Eventually, they may even learn to face their fears instead of avoiding them.

Group Therapy

Group therapy can also be quite effective in treating social anxiety disorder. This may involve role-playing activities to help overcome feelings of anxiety. The more these activities are done, the easier they will become. It's also helpful to be with others who suffer from the same condition.

Medication Therapy

Several different medications have been approved to help with the symptoms of social anxiety. Medication therapy often works best alongside other forms of therapy.

Medications Used to Help the Symptoms of Social Anxiety

It's not always easy to decide which medications are right for social anxiety. Every person is different, and responds differently to various medications. However, there are several that are usually tried first. These include:

  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor XR
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Various antidepressants
  • Beta-blockers

It takes time for these medications to begin working, and dosages may need to be adjusted. That's why it's best for people to be receiving therapy at the same time.

Social Anxiety and Addiction: How are They Connected?

People with social anxiety will often drink alcohol or use drugs. They do this because they are searching for a way to feel normal. They want to be able to socialize with others and not feel anxious the entire time. This is something that doesn't come easy for them. Using substances helps to relieve many of their symptoms. Over time, this reinforces the idea that they need substances to be social and overcome their symptoms.

Substances Frequently Used by Those with Social Anxiety

For those with social anxiety, they're looking for something that will have a depressive effect. Alcohol is a very popular choice. Not only does alcohol calm them down, but it's also a socially acceptable substance. They can feel free to drink among a group of friends and not feel judged for it. Drinking alcohol may give social anxiety sufferers enough courage to contribute to conversations. Sometimes, they even feel comfortable enough to meet new people.

Marijuana is another popular drug among those with social anxiety. The calming effects of marijuana are very desirable.

Over time, consistent drug and alcohol use leads to addiction. The individual begins to believe that he or she needs these substances to feel and act normal. However, their effects rarely last for long. In fact, people often eventually reach a place where they don't work at all.

Integrative Addiction Treatment for People with Social Anxiety and Addiction

Integrative addiction treatment is essential for people who have social anxiety and addictions. This is sometimes referred to as dual diagnosis treatment. This type of treatment is holistic in nature. Because of this, it addresses all of the person's needs. Other forms of addiction treatment focus on the addiction only.

In order for a successful recovery to take place, the source of the addiction has to be discovered. Once it is discovered, it can be treated. Treating co-occurring disorders requires specific methods, and these include:

  • Group therapy as a way to help patients experience support and encouragement from others.
  • Individual therapy, which allows a therapist to work with patients in a one on one setting.
  • Nutritional therapy, which works to improve the patient's overall health.
  • Family therapy, which gives the family the support they need. It also helps to improve patient/family relationships.
  • Additional forms of therapy, which include Yoga, physical fitness and art therapy.

Dual diagnosis treatment has been so effective in the lives of so many people. It works because it treats the reasons behind the addiction. So often, the reasons for addiction are left out of the equation. This generally leads to many more instances of relapse.

Most people have reasons why they chose to start using drugs or alcohol. For many of them, it was because they suffered from social anxiety. It is possible to treat this condition so that patients can be successful. They learn different ways to cope with their anxiety instead of turning to substances for relief.

This type of addiction treatment might be something you want to consider if you suffer from social anxiety.

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment for Addiction and Social Anxiety is Available for Recovery

Now that you know more about social anxiety, is this a disorder you feel you have? If you do, it might explain why you feel so compelled to use drugs or alcohol. Using substances might help you feel better short-term. However, it won't be long before you'll find that it doesn't work as well as it once did. It's quite common for people to begin to experience increased anxiety, and even depression symptoms.

Dual diagnosis treatment can provide you with the help you need for your co-occurring disorders. It is a new approach that has great promise. Here at Northpoint Washington, we know what you're going through. Our staff is expertly trained in the area of treating co-occurring disorders. We have the knowledge and the tools to help you achieve your recovery goals.

Are you interested in learning more about treatment for social anxiety and addiction? If so, or if you want to get started as soon as possible, please contact us today.