For many Americans, drinking isn’t just a way to have a good time. It’s an escape from a potentially debilitating condition called social anxiety disorder (SAD). While alcohol can act as liquid courage from time to time, it’s important to know how to manage social anxiety without alcohol to avoid developing a dependence. Today, let’s break down how to do just that.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a chronic condition characterized by anxiety triggered through social interaction or the potential of social interaction. For example, someone with a social anxiety disorder might get invited to a party with their peers, only to be paralyzed with indecision, hesitation, and fear.
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Social anxiety disorder is far from uncommon. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there are approximately 15 million adults living in the US with SAD.1
Anyone can develop a social anxiety disorder, which can appear anytime. However, many develop social anxiety disorder when they are teenagers. The combination of hormonal changes, body development, early introduction to alcohol, and new social experiences can combine to create a deep impression of anxiety in one’s mind. Not only can this make it difficult to cope with social situations at the moment, but it can also lead to more significant social problems or difficulty making friends in the future.
Social Anxiety’s Connection to Alcohol Abuse
Social anxiety and alcohol are closely connected for two reasons:
- Social anxiety is often undiagnosed. Lack of awareness, shame, or stigma about the condition leads many people to not talk about it with others, so they might have social anxiety without it being known or knowing it themselves.
- Alcohol is a nervous system depressant. As a result, it effectively quiets feelings of anxiety and agitation when consumed.
This combination of factors means that many individuals with a social anxiety disorder “self-medicate” with alcohol, using the substance as a way to escape their anxious feelings. They may drink alcohol before social situations in excess or may drink a lot of alcohol amid social situations, such as parties.
Regardless, the calming effect that alcohol has on the nervous system can be too tempting for many to pass up. In some circumstances, those with social anxiety disorders may develop a dependency on alcohol and have to use it to function normally in social situations.
How to Manage Social Anxiety Without Alcohol
Whether you struggle with alcohol substance abuse or not, you need to know how to manage social anxiety without alcohol. In the long run, using alcohol to handle feelings of social anxiety is mentally and physically damaging.
Talk to Someone About Your Social Anxiety
First, find someone you can talk to about your social anxiety disorder. This can be a counselor, a friend, a family member, or someone else. Open up about how anxious you feel in new social situations or even situations with people you already know. By expressing yourself freely, you’ll bring someone into your corner who can help you find better solutions than drinking.
If you speak to a counselor, they can provide you with thought exercises and other techniques you can use to minimize social anxiety without using any drugs.
Get Plenty of Exercise and Sleep
Anxiety is closely correlated with a lack of proper exercise and not enough sleep. Indeed, according to Harvard University, getting enough exercise can effectively reduce the pressure you feel in various situations.2 That’s because exercise burns cortisol and other stress hormones, preventing them from building up in your system over time. In addition to helping reduce the “bad” hormones, exercise also releases “good” hormones called endorphins.
Similarly, it’s easy to feel overly stressed and burnt out if you don’t get enough sleep. Therefore, to manage your social anxiety without the use of alcohol, exercise a few times per week and be sure to get eight hours of sleep each night.
Prepare an Excuse Not to Drink
What if you head to a social situation where alcohol will undoubtedly be served, like a wedding or some other social get-together? Before you attend, devise an excuse not to drink alcohol that you can provide if someone offers you a drink.
It’s easier to refuse alcohol if you’ve already decided you won’t drink it beforehand.
Focus on Sobriety
If you’re already struggling with alcohol addiction, refocus your thoughts on sobriety and getting better. Don’t focus on social outcomes or pleasing your peers. All that matters is maintaining your health for the long term. If need be, speak to someone about your fears of relapse or your concerns about sobriety. They may be able to give you the support you need to succeed.
Get a Prescription for Medication
If all else fails, ask a medical professional, like a licensed counselor or therapist, for a medication prescription. Certain prescription medications can help you overcome your social anxiety symptoms and make it easier for you to navigate social situations.
Contact Clear Life Recovery Today
Overall, knowing how to manage social anxiety without alcohol is important for those currently struggling with alcohol addiction or people who want to prevent issues from developing in the first place. If you or a loved one need help coping with social anxiety disorder without alcohol, Clear Life Recovery can help.
Our specialists can help you rely on a support network, provide actionable guidance and advice, and connect you with medical professionals for prescription medication when needed. Contact us today to learn more.