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Social Anxiety and Substance Abuse

A group of (usually) young adults gathers around at a sporting event, on the back of a pickup truck, or even at the river at the end of a long hike. There’s silence. Everyone looks at each other knowingly. Suddenly you hear the fizzy pop of a bottlecap, foam pours over the top of an amber bottle, glass clinks together, and everyone is suddenly laughing, talking, and having a fantastic time. They’re having beers. The world is fun now. Alcohol is in the picture.

This is an old cliche used in commercials selling alcohol. There is an intrinsic belief that alcohol makes gathering together more fun. That cliche isn’t limited to just commercials. There is no end to stories of alcohol abuse that began with statements like “I started drinking to feel more comfortable around other people,” or “People thought I was funnier and more outgoing when I drank.”

The Myth of Alcohol and the Socialite

Lots of people started drinking because they thought alcohol made them more likable. The truth is, drinking for that reason only made them like alcohol more. Once that pattern starts, it’s difficult to maintain an identity without alcohol attached to it. Truthfully, alcohol doesn’t help with social anxiety. It only leads to longer bouts of reclusive tendencies and a further inability to face the world without alcohol in your bloodstream.

The Truth

Alcohol and social anxiety don’t mix. Forget the temporary bouts of confidence that come with the initial drinking. Forget everyone also drinking and standing around laughing at what you’re laughing at. In the long run, trying to overcome social inhibitions with alcohol has proven to be a bad idea. Studies have produced the same findings regardless of age group or demographic. Social anxiety and alcohol, when combined, are extremely likely to develop into alcohol abuse.

It makes sense when you think about it. Feeling like you need a substance to overcome an obstacle will only produce a need for that substance in every scenario remotely similar to that obstacle. “Oh, some friends are going out? I’ll have a couple of drinks to feel at ease.” “Oh, a bunch of people are getting together after work? I need to have some drinks to handle that.” It’s an endless spiral that could eventually include any social interaction whatsoever.

Alcohol isn’t a treatment for social anxiety; it’s an escape. No matter what the commercials say, it’s an unhealthy one. The only real treatment for social anxiety is an actual treatment that includes guidance from a mental health professional. We need to develop healthy habits as well as techniques and methods to discover confidence in ourselves that can provide us with more than enough courage to face the rest of the world. So when given a choice, go for inner confidence, not the kind you find in a bottle.

The world offers up plenty of substances to use to self-medicate. Checking out seems like a much easier option than actually doing what we need to do to become the best versions of ourselves. Checking out isn’t a solution; it’s just adding an unhealthy relationship to the list of problems we don’t want to deal with. Who you are is too important to hide behind a bottle or an anxiety-ridden mind. Help from a mental health professional can give you the strength and confidence you need to become the you that you’re proud of. Call (855) 483-7800 for more information.