Social Anxiety + Alcohol Use
Do you feel anxious when you’re in a social setting, a new environment, or a large group of people? Do you feel shy, unsure what to say, like you don’t fit in? Or maybe you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb and everyone is judging you? And does this anxiety and unease seem to dissipate after your first drink or two? Or perhaps you drink before the event to ease your nerves a little, or spend the first few minutes of an event on the hunt for some liquid courage.
If this describes you, you may be someone who experiences social anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America describes social anxiety disorder as:
“also called social phobia, defined by intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. People with social anxiety disorder may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious (e.g., blushing, stumbling over words), or being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring.”
This experience exists on a spectrum; you may have mild social anxiety, or it may feel so crippling that a mental health professional might diagnose “social anxiety disorder.” Either way, it can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience, and it can be made worse if we attempt to self-medicate our experiences with alcohol.
If you’re someone who believes that you need alcohol to feel at ease, have fun, or survive social situations, it’s important to investigate that thought and determine its validity.
Is this a story we’ve built for ourselves, or is this fact?
Is there a tipping point? A point where we’ve had too much to drink and we feel more anxiety or shame?
Do we have specific shameful memories of drinking in social settings?
How do we feel after the alcohol leaves our system? Is our anxiety worse?
Have we just gotten used to drinking in social settings?
Was there ever a time in our life where we had fun and felt at ease in social settings, without alcohol?
Is the alcohol numbing something we could alleviate through healthier measures?
Is alcohol blunting the joy and fun we feel, along with the anxiety?