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self-medicating social anxiety

Self-Medicating Social Anxiety

Friday, September 17, 2021

Anxiety is an instinctive response to life’s stressful or challenging events. Having a built-in response to perceived threats is one of your body’s many survival mechanisms, but what happens when the dread you experience is out of proportion to the occasion, or doesn’t go away once the supposed danger has passed? If you are one of the 40 million Americans living with an anxiety disorder, your symptoms may become severe enough to disrupt your daily activities. Specifically, social anxiety disorder can cause you to miss out on career opportunities and meaningful relationships.

Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder

If your ideal leisure activities primarily include solo hobbies such as reading or doing crossword puzzles, you may self-identify as an introvert. Introversion is a personality trait characterized by preferring solitude over the company of others. Get-togethers such as parties or networking events tend to leave introverts feeling drained, instead of energized.

In contrast, social anxiety is a mental health condition. Its hallmarks include feeling acutely nervous or afraid in situations that involve meeting new people or being in large groups. People with social anxiety disorder may want to mingle at parties, but hang back because they are afraid of rejection or embarrassment. Social anxiety disorder might make you over-analyze your behavior, thinking about things you’ve said and done long after the fact.

Introversion doesn’t automatically translate into social anxiety – many introverts are happy to spend time in small groups of friends who understand their boundaries and respect their need for privacy. However, if you tend to avoid socializing due to fear, stress and insecurity, you may be struggling with social anxiety disorder.     

Coping With Social Anxiety

If left untreated, anxiety disorders can increase in severity over time, interfering with your health and happiness. The sense of foreboding that accompanies every waking moment can even follow you into sleep, in the form of disturbing anxiety dreams that can linger long into the next day.

People who don’t seek professional help for their anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol to find relief from the constant tension. However, self-medicating social anxiety is a dangerous path to go down. Relying on these substances as an escape mechanism creates a self-sustaining cycle that is challenging to escape from. As your tolerance progresses into dependence, your brain’s reward pathways will change to a point where you no longer feel like yourself unless you are drinking or using. At the same time, your anxiety symptoms will continue worsening, further perpetuating the progression of your problems.

Help for Your Dual Diagnosis

When you are simultaneously struggling with social anxiety disorder and addiction, you have what mental health professionals call a dual diagnosis. Fortunately, dual diagnoses respond well to a treatment approach that tackles the combined disorders concurrently.

At Canyon Crossing Recovery, we will craft a customized treatment plan for each client’s needs, allowing you to recover in a supportive, single-gender environment. Our blend of evidence-based therapy and holistic healing provides a haven for women from all walks of life. To learn more about our continuing care addiction programming, please connect with us today.

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