Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a common phenomenon in which individuals have an excessive fear or anxiety of social situations such as speaking publicly, eating or drinking in front of others, talking on the telephone, etc. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 15 million American adults are affected by social anxiety disorder.
The potential factors responsible for social phobia are genetics, traumatic life experiences, being behaviorally inhibited as a child, following parental behaviors and biological anomalies of the brain. Starting in the teenage, the symptoms of social phobia may remain for the entire life, if left untreated.
Establishing link between social phobia and alcohol abuse
Social phobia is an encumbering mental disorder which is more than just shyness. As a long term consequence, social phobia can often lead into social isolation, decreased financial independence and academic failures. These individuals try to self-medicate themselves with alcohol, in order to overcome their fears, inhibitions, tension, and embarrassment related to social phobia, and thereby, cope with their social behavior. Research shows that about one-fifth of patients who have social anxiety disorder also suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Using alcohol in order to obliterate the negative feelings that social situations generate makes repetitive users easily fall prey to alcohol addiction. A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), titled “Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Use,” revealed that approximately one-fifth of patients with social phobia also struggle with an alcohol abuse. Alcohol provides these individuals temporary relaxation and disinhibiting effect, thus numbing their fear to help them deliver their best performance and interact with other individuals without the feeling of shyness.
Co-occurrence of social anxiety and alcohol is enervating
Alcohol is a very short-term solution for managing anxiety, however, in the long-term, it has serious side effects. It has a negative effect on the central nervous system.Various studies have indicated that alcohol use can prolong the feelings of stress, anxiety and despair. Further, the chronic use of alcohol use is known to decreases the serotonin levels in the brain and raise adrenaline levels in the body making a person more prone to feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and apprehensions. Habitual alcohol users are vulnerable to heart attacks, inflammation of the stomach lining, stroke, reduced sugar level, liver disease, hypersensitive nervous system and some cancers.
Alcohol abuse can also worsen performance in social situations by triggering a person to make errors or fumble under the influence of alcohol. Overuse of alcohol increases danger of falling and trigger road accidents during driving. Alcohol abuse affects the work performance, affecting the financial status and personal relationships of a person. Thus, all these side effects of alcohol abuse further aggravate anxiety and anxiety perpetuated by alcohol will additionally exacerbate the alcohol abuse, thus creating a vicious cycle.
Seeking professional help
Social anxiety disorder is a treatable condition and one can easily cope with it by practicing some self-help techniques such as deep-breathing exercises, meditation, exposure therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy along with taking anti-anxiety medication. Social phobia, if left untreated, can result in repeated use of alcohol leading to alcohol abuse.
If a person is suffering from both mental problems and substance use disorders, it is imperative to seek the advice of a professional expert immediately. Leaving any kind of disorder untreated only aggravates the condition.
If a loved one or someone you know is suffering from a co-occurring disorder, contact the Dual Diagnosis Helpline to get help in finding the best dual diagnosis rehab centers in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-981-6047 or chat online with one of our representatives to know about various dual diagnosis programs in your vicinity.