Social Anxiety Disorder
Beyond Shyness and Introversion: What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder is a common anxiety disorder characterized by a debilitating fear (or “phobia”) of other people and social contacts. Those suffering from social anxiety may go to great lengths to avoid any social situation. In the most extreme cases, the person may avoid leaving their home entirely.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social anxiety is “an intense fear of being watched and judged by others.” Social anxiety is not just about being “shy” or “introverted.” Shyness may be a personality trait, and introversion defines a person’s temperament. On the other hand, social anxiety hinders a person’s ability to function normally. While a shy or introverted person may not prefer to be the center of attention or “in the spotlight,” they will generally not experience the crippling distress that defines social anxiety.
Social Anxiety As an Underlying Cause of Addiction
Some people with social anxiety turn to addictive substances or behaviors to cope with social anxiety. At Create Recovery Center of Los Angeles, our clinical team specializes in dual-diagnosis treatment. We know that treating the root cause of addiction is just as important for recovery as treating the addiction itself. But why might people with social anxiety become addicted to drugs, alcohol, or specific behaviors?
- Drugs and alcohol can “take the edge off” during social situations.
- People might be using a particular substance to self-medicate their anxiety.
- Addiction can be gradual. For example, a person might be offered a drink during a party, then realize they feel less anxious. They begin to drink before all other social events to “loosen up” and relax. While the behavior began as a social expectation, drinking became the only means of feeling comfortable within a group of people.
- Process addictions and impulse control disorders, like the internet or gambling, can be a way of escaping or connecting to the world without face-to-face interactions.
- When a person feels fearful of others or panics when going out, they might feel more comfortable talking with people over the internet, playing video games with chat features, or only connecting to others via smartphones.
- Again, the behavior begins as a way to fulfill the need for connection. However, if the person is only interacting with others through a device, they might be limiting themselves on addressing the phobia, preventing them from putting themselves out into the world.
- Other impulse control disorders, like sex or porn addictions, can also develop as a means of coping with social anxiety.
- Like other forms of addiction, sexual and porn addictions can provide short-term relief for escaping uncomfortable feelings associated with social anxiety.
- Pornography is readily and easily accessible. A person might experience such great anxiety that they find dating challenging. Pornography can become a way to fulfill sexual needs when a person avoids others due to distressing feelings.
- While sex is a natural and biological need, when sexual thoughts or behaviors become a method of coping with anxiety, they can be disruptive and addicting.
Addiction can be treated by addressing the underlying causes of an addiction while developing healthy coping skills to replace addictive behaviors. Create Recovery Center invites you to explore our dual-diagnosis treatment options for those struggling with addiction and social anxiety.