Most people who struggle with addiction have another mental health issue to go along with it. This is called a dual diagnosis. Common dual diagnoses include depression, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. One common anxiety disorder is social anxiety disorder, which is intense anxiety caused by social situations. About 15 million Americans suffer from social anxiety disorder every year. That’s comparable to the number of Americans who suffer an episode of major depression every year. People who suffer from social anxiety disorder are intensely afraid of embarrassment or rejection, to the point where they rarely interact with others and often avoid social situations entirely. However, it’s very difficult to avoid social interaction entirely, and it’s certainly not desirable. Isolation is unhealthy, and avoiding the source of your anxiety often makes it worse. What’s more, people with social anxiety disorder often become anxious in social situations precisely because they value social acceptance so highly. Since we all need to be social sometimes, even if it makes us uncomfortable, people with social anxiety disorder will often use drugs or alcohol to control their anxiety when interacting with others. Studies have shown that about 20 percent of people who suffer from social anxiety disorder will have some degree of alcohol use disorder–that’s about twice the rate in the general population. Since alcohol is socially acceptable and available in most social situations, it becomes a convenient crutch for anyone with social anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, alcohol is not a great solution to the problem of social anxiety. While it might make you more relaxed and less self-conscious for a few hours, there is typically a rebound effect. As your blood alcohol level drops, you may begin to feel depressed and probably more anxious and irritable than you were before. You may start ruminating over your behavior while you were drinking, agonizing over every word. You may feel like you need a drink just to stop obsessing over your past behavior. The problem is that while alcohol makes you feel more relaxed around other people, it doesn’t fundamentally change your beliefs about social interaction. Alcohol may mute that critical inner voice for a while, but it will come back with a vengeance. Treating social anxiety disorder properly typically requires cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, where a therapist will help you uncover your faulty assumptions about social interaction and help you replace those with more rational beliefs. You may also need to practice social skills to become more confident when interacting with others. If you suffer from both addiction and social anxiety disorder, it’s crucial to address both in an integrated way during treatment.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or social anxiety disorder, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.