Overcoming Social Anxiety without Booze

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

dog-452775_640Recovering from alcoholism can bring about many new challenges and experiences. As a person discovers who they are aside from their addiction to alcohol, they will likely find that they will need to relearn many aspects of living without being under the influence of alcohol.

A common example of this is how a person relates socially to others. Relationships and social tensions can seem less intimidating when the intoxicating effects of alcohol numb reality.

What about individuals who struggle with social anxiety? How can people use alcohol as a means of coping with social anxiety, and how can this be remedied for the sake of recovery?

Examining Social Anxiety

First, let us examine what social anxiety is. According to the social anxiety institute, social anxiety is “the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and as a result, leads to avoidance” [1].

Social anxiety disorder, which is the third most prevalent psychological condition, is a reality that many people commonly struggle with on a daily basis [1].

While there are many misunderstandings and stigmas connected with social anxiety disorder, it is important to understand the specific criteria that would be seen in a person who struggles with this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include but is not limited to the following:

  • Experiencing emotional distress in situations where one is the center of attention, meeting new people, having any social encounter, speaking in public, or in interpersonal relationships.
  • Avoidance of social situations, especially ones in which you might be the center of attention
  • Experiencing anxiety in anticipation of a social event or function
  • Fear of humiliating or embarrassing yourself in public
  • Physical symptoms during moments of duress, including sweating, shakiness, trembling, flushed face, dizziness or light-headedness.

Social Anxiety Commonly Occurs with Substance Abuse

hiking-boots-455754_640Because social anxiety is a type of mood disorder, it can commonly develop with substance abuse as a co-occurring disorder.

Co-occurring disorders are mental health issues that develop alongside an addiction to drug or alcohol addiction. For example, a person with social anxiety disorder may develop an addiction to alcohol as a means of coping with their anxiety of relating to others.

While in the short-term, it may seem as though alcohol helps alleviate the problems related to society anxiety, the reality is that mental health disorders are only worsened by substance abuse.

Social Anxiety Can Be Devastating

Social anxiety can be a devastating mental health disorder to live with. If you have been suffering with this disorder, you may feel incapable of accomplishing anything or unable to establish real connections or relationships.

Perhaps you have taken up alcohol in attempt to remedy this or to help you relax in social situations. It is important to understand that alcohol is not a solution, and drinking can only lead to more complications and problems.

Help Is Available

Fortunately, there is help that can address both alcoholism and social anxiety disorder. It is possible for you to receive treatment that can help you overcome the struggles that you may have been facing as a result of a mental health disorder and substance abuse.

In order to do so, it is necessary to receive professional help. Many therapies can be used to help an individual work through a dual diagnosis, such as alcoholism and social anxiety disorder. These include techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Learning How to Relate to Others Socially

on-foot-484364_640As a recovering alcoholic, you may have to undo many behaviors from your addiction past. It may be uncomfortable and difficult to learn how to relate to others socially without alcohol numbing the pain, fear, or anxiety you may feel as a result of social anxiety disorder.

However, with professional help, counsel, and guidance, you can learn to work through the root of your issues and fears without resorting to alcohol to get you through life.

Though the process may be slow and steady, you will find that your life is much more meaningful when experiencing without the safeguard of alcohol. If you have been experiencing social anxiety disorder and alcoholism, find a treatment center that addresses these comorbid conditions to truly find healing and recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are practical ways for an alcohol addict to relate with others when struggling with social anxiety?


  1. Social Anxiety Institute, “What is Social Anxiety?”, https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/what-is-social-anxiety, Accessed 19 Dec 2014.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 1st, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com