Social phobia has also been referred to as social anxiety disorder. It is characterized by persistent fear of social situations. This may cause embarrassment, panic or anxiety that interferes with an individual’s daily functioning. Social phobia exceeds normal shyness and leads to excessive social avoidance. Affected persons tend to avoid dating, social gatherings, parties, talking to strangers and going to restaurants.
Those who suffer from social phobia find it extremely difficult to cope with their fear and the uncomfortable feelings it produces. Some will turn to alcohol and drugs to comfort and distract themselves. Addiction develops when they continue to depend on substances to move through performance, panic, anxiety or potentially embarrassing situations. It may feel like substance abuse is temporarily relieving symptoms, but it is actually worsening them.
Symptoms of Social Phobia
These symptoms cause significant distress that interferes with an individual’s daily level of functioning at work and school as well as in relationships. Substance abuse exacerbates social phobia.
Symptoms of social phobia include:
- Obsessive worry that contributes to anxiety
- Recognition that fear is excessive or unreasonable
- Avoidance of social situations
- Excessive self-consciousness
- Always needing a buddy for activities
- Staying quiet or hiding in the background
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heart or chest tightness
- Feeling dizzy or faint
Social Phobia and Substance Abuse
Alcoholism is most commonly associated with social phobia but individuals with social phobia may abuse other substances based upon personal preference. Many times, alcohol is used to decrease anxiety related social phobia because it is widely accepted as a social lubricant. Social events, work meetings, pressure to perform and family gatherings are all examples of situations on which social phobia may have a negative impact.
Social phobia is usually present prior to alcoholism. Most social phobic individuals are not aware of how they may initially use substances to avoid fear and anxiety. They may develop an addiction over time from habitual dependent behaviors on substances to compensate for social phobia symptoms. Drug rehab gives the individual who is addicted and has social phobia time to practice being in an environment without using substances.
Social Phobia and Addiction Treatment
The addict with social phobia needs dual diagnosis treatment to have an integrated approach applied to his or her recovery. The only way to receive optimal treatment results is to have addiction and mental health disorders treated simultaneously in a dual diagnosis treatment setting.