Social anxiety disorder is a potentially disabling mental health condition that can make individuals vulnerable to substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can adversely alter moods and emotions, but they may appear to deliver certain benefits as a temporary response to social anxiety. However, substance abuse is not a cure for social anxiety. Its effects will be brief and will not at all address the underlying problem.
When individuals use drugs or alcohol to excess, tolerance will build. This will force the user to increase consumption to progressively achieve the same effects. At some point, psychoemotional and physical dependence may develop, turning substance abuse into a full-blown substance use disorder.
Social anxiety and addiction are severe, life-altering conditions. But both are amenable to treatment if such is offered in a comprehensive format appropriate for multiple behavioral health issues.
Co-Occurring Social Anxiety and Substance Abuse
Persons who experience social anxiety generally feel uncomfortable and unsafe in a wide variety of circumstances and environments because of their discomfort around others. The symptoms they experience may sometimes invoke panic attacks in social situations, making it challenging or impossible to create satisfying relationships. Their self-esteem tends to be relatively low, and they may perceive their social failures as a sign of their weakness or inferiority.
Social anxiety disorder can be a mentally and emotionally exhausting condition. To alleviate a person’s nervousness and lack of self-confidence, those who have it may consume alcohol or drugs before participating in social interactions. They may also use substances after an unsuccessful social experience as a misguided means to escape from their feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.
Such behavior may not be hazardous if it only happens on occasion. However, individuals with social anxiety problems are often lured in by the relief they believe experience when using drugs or consuming alcohol. They may feel trapped and without alternatives and may convince themselves that their substance abuse is a reasonable response to challenging circumstances—but of course, it is not.
Addiction is a common outcome for those who self-medicate to alleviate social anxiety. Once this behavior occurs, treatment is the only legitimate and effective remedy. To be successful, treatment must address both the substance use disorder and social anxiety while simultaneously maintaining a focus on each.
Social Anxiety and Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that can induce feelings of pleasure, calm, and relaxation. It also tends to lower a user’s inhibitions, making it easier to reduce anxiety and fear.
High anxiety in many social environments is typical for social anxiety-afflicted individuals. This form of anxiety is also often associated with overwhelming feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that may significantly inhibit behavior. Consequently, alcohol’s effects may feel like a boon to persons with social anxiety if it improves their functioning or causes them to feel better about themselves, albeit for a brief period.
The issue is that alcohol’s positive effects will not be experienced for long if abused in this way. Using alcohol like it’s a routinely used medication will cause the brain to adjust to its continual presence, eventually creating physical and psychological cravings for alcohol that will be challenging to resist.
When dependency and tolerance develop, the intensity of alcohol’s impact will subside. Use will become compulsive and driven by a perceived need rather than choice. Social anxiety may return in full force because alcohol’s ability to alleviate its effects has been effectively reduced. When a person’s drinking has become out of control and is compulsive and damaging, treatment for alcohol addiction will be needed as soon as possible.
Social Anxiety and Addiction
Social anxiety may prevent those who find happiness and leave them feeling lonely and isolated. In their desperation, some people may turn to illicit drugs or wrongfully obtained prescription medications as a means to alter their conscious awareness and escape their frustrations.
Under the influence of stimulants, such as cocaine or meth, or prescription stimulants like Adderall, your mood may improve, and you’ll be suddenly invigorated with energy. Anxiety may decrease, and you may feel like you have more control, but the cons heavily outweigh the pros. Moreover, when using drugs like benzodiazepines, marijuana, or opioids that make you feel more peaceful, your anxiety may not feel so overwhelming, but, again, there are severe consequences.
Getting Treatment for Social Anxiety and Substance Abuse
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers feature programs clinically proven to help the recovery process, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more. We are dedicated to ensuring every person we treat receives the very best care and support needed to achieve a full recovery and go on to foster fulfilling lives for themselves.