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Social Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders

Social Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders

The Relationship Between Social Anxiety and Substance User Disorders

Anxiety and substance use disorders are among the most commonly diagnosed co-occurring mental health conditions. In fact, anxiety disorders carry a 33-45% prevalence rate for a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD). Furthermore, that SUD is more than twice as likely to be a more serious drug or alcohol dependence than drug or alcohol abuse. Today we will be looking more closely at a specific type of anxiety disorder, that is, social anxiety disorder, and its relationship to substance use disorders.


What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

First, we should note that social anxiety disorder is not shyness or timidity. It is a chronic mental health condition in which social situations cause an intense and irrational fear that can interfere with relationships, work, school, and other daily routines. For example, social anxiety can include unreasonable feelings of judgment by others, intense worries about embarrassing or humiliating oneself, and overanalyzing one’s performance in social settings. Additionally, it can include physical sensations such as sweating, blushing, an accelerated heartbeat, shaking, dizziness, and nausea. Individuals suffering from social anxiety disorder can be triggered by public speaking, business meetings, parties, dating, or meeting new people. Left untreated, social anxiety can lead to low self-esteem, hypersensitivity to criticism, isolation, and depression. It can also lead to substance use issues, as individuals attempt to self-medicate.


Social Anxiety and Substance Use

These attempts at self-medication can often develop into substance use disorders as individuals become reliant upon drugs or alcohol to get them through social interactions. A review by Kushner et al found that “anxiety disorders predate substance use disorders in at least 75% of cases, further supporting the increased prevalence of the self-medication pathway compared to” substance-induced anxiety or third variable (e.g. genetics) pathways. Furthermore, the symptoms of substance use disorder mirror and exacerbate some of the symptoms of social anxiety, sending individuals suffering from these co-occurring disorders into a downward spiral. Therefore, an evidence-based dual diagnosis approach to treatment is essential in helping these individuals heal and overcome their conditions.


Be Heard, Be Nurtured, Be Healed

For over 30 years, Creative Care has offered compassionate, cutting-edge dual diagnosis treatment to individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders. Our program features a full dedicated staff of expertly trained mental health professionals delivering the clinical excellence upon which we have built our reputation. For example, an individualized treatment plan at Creative Care may include:

Creative Care is an oasis for individuals who need extra support, accountability, and direction to heal. Indeed, if you or someone you love is struggling with co-occurring conditions, please consider giving Creative Care a call. Begin your journey to recovery today.