The Relationship Between Social Anxiety and Addiction

social anxiety disorder and addiction

While you have probably heard someone joking about having social anxiety, this condition is far more complex than being shy around new people. Social anxiety disorder is a condition that can cause extreme fear associated with being in public or socializing with others. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from a social anxiety disorder.[1]

If you struggle with this condition, you are familiar with the disruptions it can cause to your life. Oftentimes, social anxiety causes people to isolate themselves to avoid being in an anxiety-inducing situation. This could cause you to begin abusing drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with your anxiety, in hopes of being able to function normally in social situations. 

Unfortunately, when you begin self-medicating with substances the symptoms of your social anxiety disorder will begin to worsen. Eventually, you’ll find that you cannot interact with others without using drugs or alcohol beforehand.

Becoming knowledgeable on the relationship between social anxiety and addiction can prevent you from experiencing this comorbidity. 

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Everyone feels nervous in some social situations, like meeting your partner’s parents for the first time. However, if you struggle with social anxiety disorder, you may find that everyday interactions cause intense self-consciousness, embarrassment, and fear of being judged by others. 

Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety condition that causes mental and physical symptoms of extreme uncomfortableness in normal social situations. The fear and anxiety associated with these events may cause you to avoid social situations altogether. This can lead to adverse effects on your relationships, daily routines, career, school, and additional activities.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

The symptoms of social anxiety are similar to generalized anxiety disorder, however, they focus on social situations rather than general triggers. Social anxiety includes fear, anxiety, and avoidance that causes a significant impact on your ability to function in your daily life.

The emotional and behavioral symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged negatively 
  • Excessive worry about embarrassment or humiliation 
  • Intense fear of interacting with strangers 
  • Fear that others will notice you are anxious 
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause embarrassment such as shaking, sweating, or a trembling voice 
  • Avoiding speaking to people or doing things out of fear of embarrassment 
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention 
  • Anxiety during the anticipation of a social event 

The physical symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Blushing 
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Hard time catching your breath 
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness 
  • Feeling that your mind has gone blank 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Panic attacks that include hyperventilating 

How is Social Anxiety and Substance Abuse Connected?

When battling social anxiety, you desperately want to be able to socialize like a “normal person.” This may cause you to begin self-medicating your symptoms with drugs or alcohol. 

Oftentimes, the false sense of confidence that alcohol can provide causes individuals to repeatedly abuse the substance. Additionally, it is common for individuals with social anxiety to begin abusing anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines. 

Over time, abusing these substances causes them to believe that they cannot interact socially without them, beginning the cycle of addiction and worsening symptoms of anxiety. 

Social anxiety and addiction commonly co-occur. Statistics regarding this comorbidity include:[1,2,3,4]

  • About 20% of people with social anxiety disorder suffer from alcohol use disorder as well
  • About 80% of people with these co-occurring disorders had social anxiety before developing alcoholism
  • Individuals with social anxiety disorder are 5 times more likely to become addicted to marijuana and 4.5 times more likely to become addicted to alcohol 
  • At least 10% of cannabis users have struggled with a social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives

How Does Substance Abuse Worsen Symptoms of Social Anxiety?

Certain substances cause an immediate increase in anxiety while others cause a worsening of symptoms over time. For example, stimulants cause an immediate increase in anxiety while marijuana can lead to worsened anxiety throughout frequent use.

If you abuse drugs to soothe symptoms of social anxiety, you might find that you cannot interact with others without using substances beforehand or during. While this causes an immediate sense of relief, over time your anxiety will worsen and become more intense when you are not on drugs or alcohol. 

Additionally, when you become addicted to a substance you will experience withdrawal when you cut down or completely stop using the drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can lead to worsened anxiety that causes you to use the substance to soothe those symptoms. This leads to the cycle of addiction, withdrawal, and worsened symptoms of anxiety. 

Finding Help for Anxiety and Substance Abuse 

While substance abuse complicates the treatment of social anxiety, recovery is possible with the help of a dual diagnosis treatment program. Through the use of behavioral therapies, peer support, and evidence-based addiction treatments, you or your loved one could learn to manage your anxiety and beat addiction.

Contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today for more information on starting substance abuse treatment.

References:

  1. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder/social-anxiety-and-alcohol-abuse
  2. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2013/10/study-parses-comorbidity-cannabis-use-social-anxiety
  3. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/social-anxiety-disorder-and-alcohol-use-disorder-comorbidity-in-the-national-epidemiologic-survey-on-alcohol-and-related-conditions/D2E84E6B59EB8023D6C3DD162874630D
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022395607000040

Related Posts

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops after you experience something traumatic. You could also develop this condition after seeing or hearing about a traumatic event. The symptoms can begin immediately after the traumatic...

6 Warning Signs of Relapse

Maintaining long-term sobriety from addiction is never easy. People must continuously practice their recovery maintenance techniques without cutting any slack. When someone does slack in their recovery, they put themselves at risk of suffering from a relapse. ...

Stereotypes About Addiction and Why They Are Dangerous

Addiction is a common disease that affects about 10% of Americans.[1] Despite addiction being so prevalent in our country, the attitude around this condition is not always supportive or understanding. Many people still believe in stereotypes and the stigma surrounding...

Hydrocodone Addiction: Signs Symptoms and Treatment

Hydrocodone is an opioid medication used to treat pain. This substance belongs to a class of drugs known as narcotic analgesics (opioids) and acts on the central nervous system in the brain. While this medication helps treat severe cases of pain, it is also known to...

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment

Heroin is a powerful, illicit opiate drug that has been a major contributor to the United States opioid crisis. In 2020, about 691,000 people had a heroin use disorder and more than 13,165 people died as a result of a drug overdose involving heroin.[1] Despite how...

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood changes, including emotional highs and lows. People who struggle with this condition may experience mania (emotional highs) for weeks to months on end until they crash, leading to emotional lows...

What Can I Expect During Benzodiazepine Rehab in New Jersey?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 40 million adults in America suffer from an anxiety disorder.[1] One of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety is benzodiazepines and many Americans take these substances daily. ...

Should I Go Back to Rehab After Relapse?

Drug addiction and alcoholism are complex and progressive diseases that require constant dedication and practice to recover. If you suffer from a substance use disorder, you know that attending professional treatment is the best way to learn how to maintain long-term...

Dangers of Mixing Xanax (Alprazolam) and Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.[1] This substance is highly dangerous, claiming the lives of thousands of Americans each year. Oftentimes, fentanyl is mixed into drugs to create a stronger...

What Makes Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States. Individuals who suffer from this condition suffer from an array of consequences that hinder their ability to function in their daily lives. One of the most concerning risks of drug addiction is the possibility...

Take The First Step to a New Life

Transform daydreams into realities

Moving Mountains takes a whole-person approach to recovery by offering a continuum of care, clinically proven treatments, and holistic healing. We work closely with you to identify your unique needs, facilitate individualized treatments, and help you establish a foundation upon which your recovery--and the rest of your life--can grow. Our compassionate, friendly staff is available 24-hours a day to take your call and help you begin your recovery journey.

 

Combatting the ever-growing drug epidemic that this country faces begins with you. Make the most of our vast knowledge of addiction treatment and our proven ability to change lives. Let's Move Mountains together.  Take the first step towards a new, better life by giving us a call today.

Begin RecoveryVerify Insurance

Get Addiction Help Now
(973) 397-5055
Representatives available now.