The Link Between Alcohol Abuse and Social Anxiety

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People who suffer from social anxiety (sometimes suffering anxiety attacks also) may resort to the point of drinking alcohol to alleviate these extreme feelings of nervousness and in some cases without realizing it, end up engaging in alcohol abuse.

We have all experienced some form of extreme anxiety – from fear of talking to a stranger to the fear of talking in front of a group.

In people who have excessive social anxiety sometimes referred to as social phobia, not surprisingly the statistics indicate that roughly 20% of patients with this condition also suffer from alcohol abuse as well. And there is a very good chance that this percentage is higher.

Since the symptoms of social anxiety are alleviated by drinking alcohol, the alcohol then can become a form of self-medicating. Some alcoholics start out using alcohol for self-medication for symptoms of not only social anxiety, but depression, stress, and life problems that seem insurmountable or life overwhelm in general to name a few.

The general definition of social anxiety disorder is “excessive fear in social situations, wherein the person suffers symptoms of anxiety that they feel they are in a situation where their response will be humiliating in some way”.

Some Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder Include:

1. You will avoid the situations that cause the anxiety, or if you are forced into an anxiety situation, in anticipation you feel extreme distress that interferes with your daily life, social activities and possibly relationships.

2. You know the fear is excessive, but are unable to stop it.

3. The situation that causes the anxiety can lead to a panic attack.

4. Your social fears may be specific or on occasion more general and sometimes manifest unexpectedly.

The current general trend of thought on social anxiety is that in most cases, the phobias start in the younger teen years, and there may be genetic or environmental factors involved.

The problem with using alcohol to alleviate these symptoms is obvious. Since alcohol does relieve the tension and unpleasantness of the anxiety, this will tend to reinforce using alcohol over and over again to achieve the same results.

The irony of using alcohol to relieve anxiety and stress is it can lead to drinking too much and after a drinking episode, the physical and emotional condition alcohol leaves you in can actually increase the stress and anxiety factors. Alcohol use can and does increase anxiety.

Finally, the continued use of alcohol as a coping strategy, possibly without realizing it, over time can result in the this pattern developing into unintentional alcoholism.

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