Substance Abuse And The Co-Occurrence Of Social Anxiety Disorder

Shyness and social anxiety is thought by experts to exist on a continuum, however efforts to cope with this anxiety disorder can be disabling for many -- leading to avoidance of situations and often using and abusing substances as a solution to manage uncomfortable symptoms. The co-occurrence of substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse, is common among people who have social anxiety disorder according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Many begin to rely on alcohol, benzodiazepines, pain killers and other mood-altering substances as a coping mechanism to relieve social discomfort. It is, for those with social anxiety, an attempt to solve a problem. While individuals may not experience full relief from their symptoms by using alcohol or drugs, they may experience enough relief to enable them to get through difficult social situations, which then reinforces this particular way of problem solving. Some studies report that the average lifetime prevalence of alcoholism among individuals with social anxiety disorder, as well as depression, may be as high as 20 percent. That's huge!

Psychotherapy such as Cognitive Therapy, DBT skills therapy, mindfulness, ACT and other therapy modalities such as EMDR can help individuals change their thoughts about their circumstances, accept who they are, develop more helpful coping skills and learn to experience greater personal comfort in social situations. Read on to understand what fuels social anxiety and how therapy, and some of the techniques listed can help. To learn more about Social Anxiety Disorder read 6 Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety - Psych Central. To learn more about the link between mood and anxiety disorders and alcoholism and substance use visit ADAA. Practice acceptance, try compassion and change what you can. KS

NYC Therapist Kimberly Seelbrede, LCSW is a skilled Psychotherapist, Relationship and Stress Reduction Expert in New York City. She provides therapy, EMDR & Coaching to individuals and couples.