How to Overcome Social Anxiety Without Alcohol
Authored by Audra Franchini
5 helpful tips from our addictions recovery center how to reduce social anxiety without alcohol
Anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the United States; approximately 15 million adults suffer from social anxiety disorder. Alcohol has many effects on the symptoms of anxiety. So, many of those who suffer from it are at risk for developing a co-occurring alcohol use disorder. These people struggle every day with how to overcome social anxiety without resorting to substance abuse as an unhealthy coping mechanism.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural and necessary response to external stressors, but for some people these feelings of worry get out of hand and are disproportionate to the source of the stress. Social anxiety is an extreme fear of being judged or scrutinized by others in social or performance situations. This is more severe than being shy or frightened of public speaking; symptoms are so serious that they cause disruption to everyday life.
Anxiety and Alcohol
Alcohol can reduce stress and inhibit impulse control, having the effect of temporarily relieving the symptoms of anxiety; unfortunately, these “positive” effects are fleeting. Alcohol is a negative reinforcer for anxiety, as it temporarily relieves the symptoms but does not contribute to resolving the source of the stress. In fact, our addictions recovery center knows it often can often make things worse! However, those with social anxiety can abuse alcohol as an attempt to feel more comfortable in a social situation. This can create an unhealthy cycle of substance abuse.
If you have at least one of the following symptoms, you may suffer from alcohol use disorder:
- Needing a drink in the morning to get going
- Feelings of guilt or remorse after drinking
- Not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started
- Getting hurt or hurting others as a result of drinking
- Alcohol having an impact on work or school
How To Overcome Social Anxiety – 5 Healthy Ways
I know, this is often easier said than done, but taking a moment to collect yourself and calm down can do wonders to reduce the overwhelming feelings of anxiety in a social situation. Deep breathing and/or meditation can reduce stress and prevent panic. Excusing yourself to the restroom can be a great way to find five minutes to do some deep breathing and quiet the overactive thoughts of an anxious mind. Mindful meditation practices are another common and terrific way to calm one’s thoughts and collect yourself before returning to a social situation.
Don’t set unreasonable goals.
You cannot expect to achieve no anxiety whatsoever, and attempting to attain such is setting yourself up for failure. You can’t expect to fix your issues all at once! Temper your expectations and instead focus on small achievable goals that will add up to a larger overall success. If you accept that a small amount of anxiety is normal and acceptable, it will be easier to engage in social situations without being overly preoccupied with your own anxiety levels.
People with social anxiety disorder obsess over what others think of them, so it can be helpful to shift the focus of conversation to others. What is the simplest way to do that? Ask questions! Not only does it shift attention away from yourself, but it helps others see that you are interested in them and the conversation at hand. Try to branch out to questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.
Choose social situations that don’t involve alcohol use.
It can seem difficult sometimes to avoid places that serve alchohol, but if you struggle with temptation, this can be a helpful strategy. Spend time with people doing activities that will not involve alcohol in any way. For example, you can meet a group of friends at a park for an afternoon instead of a restaurant that serves liquor. You can also choose to spend more time with people who understand that you struggle with alcohol abuse and who will abstain from using alcohol around you.
Get comfortable being yourself.
This takes a lot of practice and a lot of self-awareness. In social situations, being comfortable projecting a less-than-perfect image of yourself can portray confidence to others. It is unreasonable for anyone to expect themselves to be perfect all of the time. Accepting the small mistakes is one step regarding how to overcome social anxiety.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse, there addictions recovery center resources available to help you. Contact us today at 1-800-RECOVERY.