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Social Anxiety and Alcohol: When Drinking Becomes Your Crutch

Social Anxiety and Alcohol: When Drinking Becomes Your Crutch

Social anxiety and alcohol go hand in hand. Usually, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is diagnosed before an alcohol addiction forms since drinking becomes a coping mechanism to reduce anxiety symptoms. Nevertheless, if a person heavily relies on drinking, there is a good chance that they will become an alcoholic. Excessive drinking changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which causes improper functioning and physical dependence. The first question a person should ask is if alcohol became a problem before or after continuous cycles of anxiety.  

Does Alcohol Calm Anxiety? 

Drinking may seem like a good idea since alcohol does suppress anxiety, but it also worsens symptoms. The relationship between alcohol and anxiety is complex since people treated for alcohol problems but not social anxiety may find themselves relapsing, making recovery difficult to sustain. Therefore, it is essential to use coping strategies for both mental and substance disorders to avoid long-term health complications or stress.  

Drinking alcohol for social anxiety means depressing the central nervous system. The sedative effect that follows alcohol consumption brings a sense of relief, but the relief is temporary. If a person attempts to avoid an anxiety attack while in public, drinking more often leads to dehydration and low blood sugar levels, which will spike anxiety symptoms.  

Does Alcohol Trigger Anxiety? 

Alcohol affects the brain's central nervous system and reward systems. A euphoric sensation is felt, inflicting relaxation in a social setting. However, alcohol can cause anxiety. If a person uses drinking as a clutch during most social interactions, then there is an increased risk of avoiding anywhere a person cannot drink. Social anxiety and alcohol symptoms a person may feel while in public include:  

  • Anxiety in anticipation of an event  
  • Worry about embarrassing yourself 
  • Dread of being the center of attention 
  • Fear that others will notice you look anxious 
  • Avoidance of people out of fear of feeling embarrassed 
  • Overanalyzing your performance after a conversation 
  • Overthinking and expecting the worst outcomes in a situation 

Physical Symptoms of social anxiety include:  

  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Flushing or blushing 
  • Twitching or fidgeting  
  • Trembling or sweating 
  • Unable to process thoughts 
  • Muscle tension or clenching jaw  
  • Upset stomach, nausea, or dizziness  

Alcohol can cause these symptoms to worsen, especially if a person begins to realize how intoxicated they are now. In addition, overthinking and stress are added on the shoulders of those who carry anxiety and mix the symptoms with alcohol. Seeking mental health care and alcohol detox will benefit a person with social anxiety in the long term.  

Alternatives to Alcohol for Social Anxiety 

There are other helpful ways to treat social anxiety besides using alcohol as a coping mechanism. For instance, motivational therapy is an excellent approach to reducing anxiety symptoms and learning skills that may be applied in everyday situations. Remember, heavy drinking raises cortisol levels and manipulates the brain to become physically dependent on alcohol. Mediation, trying new hobbies to talk about with others, or trying holistic medicines may help treat anxiety and are better alternatives to alcohol.  

Social Anxiety & Alcohol Treatment at Banyan Palm Springs 

At Banyan Treatment Centers Palm Springs, we are eager to help you begin the appropriate treatment plan that will meet your recovery goals. We understand addiction is different for everyone. We offer treatment for not only alcohol but also prescription drug addiction, heroin, and more. Our dedicated medical staff is ready to answer any questions you may have! 

Call 888-280-4763 and speak to a specialist at Banyan Palm Springs about our residential treatment program to get started today! 


Related Readings:  

Why Do I Get A Headache When I Drink Alcohol?  

How to Achieve Emotional Sobriety 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Social Anxiety and Alcohol: When Drinking Becomes Your Crutch
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