Social anxiety is a commonly discussed mental health disorder. However, what exactly a social anxiety disorder entails can be rather enigmatic as it is commonly used to describe people who simply don’t enjoy large gatherings or are more introverted by nature. Those suffering from social anxiety often struggle with much more than just their comfort levels while in public and populated spaces and can suffer from various other mental health ramifications as a result, even leading to the development of addiction if left unaddressed. Understanding social anxiety and how it can lead to other issues is crucial in addressing this anxiety disorder in a safe and informed way.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder defined by a person’s aversion and discomfort when surrounded by other people. For some, this can mean a great deal of inherent discomfort when attending parties, going to school or the workplace, or even attending family gatherings. Others may experience social anxiety on a more intimate level, feeling anxious whenever they meet or have to speak to strangers–or even acquaintances or coworkers–on a personal level.
This anxiety makes it incredibly difficult to move through the day with a feeling of comfort or safety, and one’s social anxiety can then inhibit other aspects of their life, compromising workplace performance or the development of personal relationships.
What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?
While social anxiety is very common, it can feel different for each individual that is affected. Social anxiety can produce pervasive feelings of:
- Being watched or scrutinized by others
- Perceptions of being constantly judged
- Fear of offending somebody
- Feeling like they are always in a “spotlight”
The stress associated with a person feeling like they are at the center of everyone’s attention when they would much rather not be can produce a great deal of anxiety and stress. Those suffering from social anxiety may begin to feel their heartbeat rapidly increase or feelings of nausea or dizziness associated with being in social situations. Shortness of breath can also be common, as well as hyperventilation as the brain tries to process all of the social stimuli around it, creating a great deal of physical and emotional unease.
How Social Anxiety Affects Daily Life
Feeling like a person has to avoid social situations, or silence their own opinions or voice due to fear of being judged or offending anyone, can have many repercussions for one’s emotional wellbeing. Those who suffer from social anxiety can have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships, especially when making friends or dating, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Social anxiety can also create feelings of depression, low self-esteem, self-criticism, negative self-image, and hypersensitivity to criticism. Social anxiety can also stunt the development of essential social skills, leaving an individual both anxious in social situations while also afraid to work to develop the social skills needed.
Social Anxiety and Substance Use
Those suffering from extreme social anxiety may look for any way to ease their symptoms, especially when social situations are unavoidable. Turning to drugs or alcohol as a way to loosen oneself up in a social situation is common but also extremely dangerous. The use of drugs or alcohol as a means to engage in these events will only temporarily “solve” one’s anxieties and is not effective for coping with the very real effects that such an anxiety disorder has on an individual. Without proper coping skills, it is common that an individual will continue to see these addictive substances as “quick fixes” to the issue rather than seek a sustainable solution.
The dangerous tendency to mitigate the feelings of social anxiety or negative self-worth by using drugs or alcohol can quickly develop into abuse of these substances, or even an addiction, creating a situation where an individual is reliant on their use of an addictive substance without other proper coping skills for their anxiety.
Social anxiety, while a common diagnosis, can still be incredibly serious and debilitating and should be treated with the care and attention that an anxiety disorder demands. Learning to cope with these anxieties and address the role that drugs or alcohol may have played in developing harmful coping strategies are important in establishing a new self-image. Taking the first step towards addressing these elements can be stressful; however, having a safe space to practice one’s new social skills and address the use of drugs or alcohol is all an important part of the recovery process that can lead towards the continued development of coping strategies and applicable social skills to create meaningful, open, and intimate relationships.
Social anxiety can be a debilitating experience, compromising the development of one’s professional career and personal relationships. If you or a loved one are struggling with this anxiety disorder, as well as any substance use that may have been developed as a coping mechanism, Everlast Recovery can help you take the first steps on your healing journey today. We offer an array of programs designed to help you better understand your unique situation, and professionals can work with you to develop a strategy that is right for you and your goals. Art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, and much more are all available to you, as well as detox and residential services to address your healing holistically. For more information on how we can help you personalize your time with us or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, call to speak to us today at (866) 338-6925.