“I loved the way it made me feel around other people.” “I was pretty boring until I had a few drinks in me.” “When I wasn’t using, I could just feel everyone’s eyes on me and could tell what they were thinking.” Sentences like these describing what life was like at the beginning of addiction are commonplace at twelve-step meetings and in process groups. However, these thoughts are describing more than addiction alone. They are a window into what life is like with social anxiety disorder.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
It is important to note that social anxiety disorder is not mere shyness. It is an intense and irrational fear of interacting with other people – so intense, in fact, that it negatively affects the lives of those so afflicted. Social anxiety disorder often manifests as a strong feeling of self-consciousness and an unreasonable feeling of being judged. Triggers to the disorder can include public speaking, meeting new people, going on dates, or merely ordering food at a restaurant. Individuals can feel inadequate, embarrassed or depressed. They also may feel physical sensations such as sweating, trembling, or feeling flushed or dizzy. These symptoms can become so intolerable that those suffering from social anxiety disorder have a difficult time maintaining relationships or employment.
Social Anxiety and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse disorders and social anxiety disorders often go hand in hand. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of people suffering from social anxiety disorder also struggle with alcoholism. Furthermore, a study by Doctors Joshua P. Smith and Sarah W. Brook found that the co-morbidity of anxiety disorders and drug abuse or dependence is even higher than alcohol disorders. This includes addictions to anti-anxiety medications such as Valium or Xanax. What begins as self-medication – a few drinks or a pill to “loosen up” in social situations – can turn into a second disorder altogether. Furthermore, the nature of these disorders is to feed off of each other in an ever-worsening downward spiral.
Build Your Foundation for Success
The good news about social anxiety disorders is that they are treatable. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of counseling that aims to address problematic thinking patterns and their attendant behaviors. It is also an effective form of treatment for these disorders. So, too, are holistic anti-stress activities such as yoga and meditation. Ocean Recovery uses all three as part of our residential treatment program for substance abuse, eating, and co-occurring disorders such as social anxiety. If you or someone you know is suffering, please give us a call today. We have been successfully treating these disorders since 2002. Let us help you build your foundation for success.