Are you uncomfortable in social settings? Does the fear of being judged by others prevent you from meeting new people or going out with old friends?
Coping with social anxiety is difficult under normal circumstances, but doing so while in recovery can seem much harder. Social anxiety makes it difficult to meet new people or hang out with friends due to the fear of being judged or watched by others. This persistent fear can make it hard to do everyday tasks, ultimately affecting school or work.
Whether you have suffered from social anxiety before or not, the symptoms can seem heightened as you navigate your new normal without using alcohol or drugs as a crutch to open up to others.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder is the third most common psychiatric condition. If you experience symptoms of social anxiety for six or more months, you may have a social anxiety disorder. Research shows that about seven percent of Americans are affected by this disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people experiencing social anxiety typically tend to:
- Sweat, tremble, or blush
- Have low self-esteem
- Experience a racing heart accompanied by having trouble catching their breath
- Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach while in front of others
- Avoid places where people will likely be
- Make little to no eye contact and speak unusually soft
- Have a hard time holding a conversation with others, even when they wish they could
Additionally, individuals who struggle with social anxiety are at a high risk of turning to alcohol or drugs to help them deal with social situations. The best way to overcome substance abuse and social anxiety is to find a center for alcohol and drug treatment that also treats mental health disorders.
Causes of Social Anxiety
As of right now, there isn’t enough evidence to determine what causes social anxiety disorder. Though it sometimes runs in the family, researchers believe that misreading others’ behavior plays a significant role. For example, you may think someone is staring at you with a disgusted look when in reality, they’re not even looking at you. Researchers are also exploring whether or not stress and environmental factors play a role as well.
Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety
Below are practical tips to help you avoid reverting to old habits when struggling with social anxiety while in recovery:
#1. Immerse Yourself in Exposure Therapy
If you’re struggling with even the most minor tasks, such as attending meetings with your boss, standing in line at the grocery store, picking up the phone, attending parties, or being called on in class, then find opportunities to expose yourself to these situations more.
Start small by getting up and going to the bathroom at a restaurant or greeting the cashier at a store. This may seem silly but taking small steps toward your goal to feel more comfortable in a social setting is an excellent coping method.
#2. Reframe Your Thoughts
Try your best to acknowledge when your anxiety sets in instead of ignoring it. This is when mindfulness comes into play. Mindfulness is defined as purposefully paying attention in a particular way, staying in the present moment while being nonjudgmental. The idea of mindfulness is to be able to pay attention to feelings and sensations without being influenced by them.
Further, you want to be curious about the situation you’re in without reacting to it. For example, ask yourself why you feel you would be uncomfortable attending a friend’s party. What evidence is there to make you assume the worst? For every negative thought, counter it with at least two positive ones.
#3. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
You can also work towards overcoming social anxiety by learning the powerful cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) tools that help you break down situations and change irrational thoughts. The goal of CBT is to challenge negative beliefs and reshape them positively.
The ABC model used in CBT may be especially helpful. The three components of the ABC technique are the activating event, beliefs, and consequences. For example, meeting new people would be the event, beliefs are the thoughts that arise as a result and how you interpret them, and consequences refer to what happens due to your interpretation of the situation.
#4. Seek Mental Health Treatment
If you lack coping skills and find that you’re reaching your limit in social situations, it’s time to seek treatment to deal with the psychological stress before resorting back to abusing drugs or alcohol. Be sure to put yourself first and protect your recovery. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to accept and believe this is just the way you are. Give yourself more credit, and remember you are resilient for overcoming your addiction in the first place. It can take time to overcome any anxiety disorder, but it will happen if you are willing to take action.
Social anxiety is much more than feeling incredibly shy around new people. Social anxiety makes it difficult to meet people or hang out with friends due to the fear of being judged or watched by others. Anxiety is a normal emotion that many experience from time to time; however when anxiety becomes debilitating, it can become a problem. Finding healthy ways to cope with social anxiety is crucial to help you maintain overall well-being. If your social anxiety has resulted in drug or alcohol abuse, Hawaii Island Recovery is here to help. Our rehab center in Hawaii uses evidence-based and holistic treatment modalities to help you overcome addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We can help you explore the thought patterns that lead to self-destructive behavior and how to avoid those thoughts to lead a happier, healthier life. Call Hawaii Island Recovery today at (866) 390-5070 for more information on our treatment program.