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Is There a Link Between Social Anxiety and Drinking?

social anxiety and drinking

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 15 million adults, or 7 percent of the total U.S. population, live with social anxiety disorder. While the link between social anxiety and drinking is complex, influenced by numerous outside factors, it is easy to see the possible interplay between coping with the symptoms of social anxiety and alcohol abuse.

In their 2003 book, Triumph Over Shyness: Conquering Shyness and Social Anxiety, Murray Stein, MD, MPH, and John Walker, PhD, point out that social anxiety “frequently travels in the company of other emotional difficulties” including alcohol or drug abuse, depression, and other types of anxiety disorders.

Recognizing the interplay between social anxiety and alcohol consumption is essential for developing an effective intervention and treatment.

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition characterized by the intense fear of social situations and the persistent worry about judgment by other people. People living with social anxiety often experience discomfort or anxiety in settings where other people are present. This leads them to avoid social interactions altogether.

Social anxiety can be triggered by everyday activities like meeting new people or participating in group activities. Not only can social anxiety hinder one’s ability to engage in social circles, it can negatively impact their personal and professional relationships, leading to an altogether poorer quality of life. Fortunately, treatment options for social anxiety exists, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), medication, or a combination of the two that can help manage its more intense symptoms.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Difficulty talking or interacting with others
  • Fear of judgment
  • Avoidance of social interactions
  • Sweating, trembling, nausea, and lightheadedness around other people
  • Excessive worrying about upcoming social events
  • High levels of self-consciousness in the presence of others
  • Constant self-analysis of one’s own performance in social settings

The Effects of Drinking on Social Anxiety Symptoms

So, is there a link between social anxiety and drinking? The answer is yes, in some cases. After all, drinking can provide a temporary relief from social anxiety symptoms. In addition, it lowers anxiety levels and reduces social inhibition. Of course, the temporary nature of such relief can result in a range of other problems.

People often do or say embarrassing things when they’re drinking. Remembering these embarrassing events once one has sobered up can contribute to a person’s social anxiety.

On a chemical level, anxiety often increases as the effects of alcohol wear off. Drinking increases the levels of serotonin and other “feel good” chemicals in the brain. While these increased levels can initially lead to feelings of relaxation and confidence. However, when effects of alcohol wear off, a boomerang effect can take place, causing what is casually known as “hangxiety.”

As a result, some people might feel compelled to drink more in subsequent social situations to alleviate their anxiety, further reinforcing the link between social anxiety and drinking and creating a vicious cycle. And long-term alcohol abuse can exacerbate or even lead to other mental health problems. It can also result in scores of physical health problems, including liver and heart disease.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

At Northpoint Colorado, our experienced and compassionate staff can treat alcohol use disorder along with co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression. Our professional, compassionate staff employ a three-step system to help our clients recover from addiction. Our residential inpatient treatment program, located in Loveland, Colo., provides the highest level of support, beginning with comprehensive detox services.

Following detox, clients are invited to stay in our residential treatment center, where they will undergo a process of one-on-one therapy, group support, and relapse prevention education. After this stage, clients are then invited to enter a Northpoint outpatient recovery program for ongoing therapeutic support while keeping up with their responsibilities at work and home.

Find Answers About Social Anxiety and Drinking with Northpoint Colorado

For more information about anxiety, social anxiety, and drinking, reach out to the rehab professionals at Northpoint Colorado. Guidance from our staff can ensure that you understand how the treatment process works. It also empowers you to make choices that will support your treatment goals. Call us today at 970.699-3132 or fill out our online contact form.