Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism for Social Anxiety – How to Break the Habit?

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Social anxiety disorder (SAD) affects around 7% of U.S. adults. If that number sounds a bit low, consider that there are around 23 million people in the U.S. that are suffering from social anxiety at any given moment. Social anxiety is much more difficult to deal with than most people realize, and many people with it simply have to develop a coping mechanism to function normally. Some people resort to avoiding social situations, while others drink to get over it. But using alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety is very dangerous as it may lead to alcohol addiction. While there are many addiction solutions Florida has to offer, getting to the addiction stage is never good. Instead, you might want to learn more about both anxiety and coping mechanisms and develop a way to socialize without the use of a dangerous substance. This article will guide you through the process.

What is social anxiety?

To get to the ultimate solution, we first need to understand what is social anxiety. In a nutshell, SAD is an irrational fear of humiliation in any shape or form, particularly during interactions with others. The person suffering from social anxiety usually experiences thoughts that others may be judging them in a negative light. This makes it very difficult to properly communicate, as these negative thoughts will influence the way the conversation is going. In extreme cases, people suffering from SAD might need to turn to one of the inpatient rehab Florida solutions. But for most people, social anxiety is something that they need to learn to live with.

person suffering from social anxiety
Social anxiety can be debilitating.

It is all about fear

SAD also induces fear of simply communicating with other people, speaking in small groups, and especially speaking in front of a crowd. People that are suffering from social anxiety usually have a deep fear of all social interactions. For them, interacting with others is something that induces large amounts of stress. Most people tend to develop SAD in their teenage years and it only intensifies as they get older. As children, they might come off as shy and quiet but still interact in some manner. As adults, people with SAD will actively avoid any form of human interaction.

Some people with the disorder might also realize that their fears are irrational. However, they still find it hard, or borderline impossible, to suppress these fears. That being said, there are ways in which a person can successfully cope with social anxiety. The issue is, some of those ways are even more dangerous than SAD itself. Some people even get into drugs and require a visit to a drug rehab Florida center. But before we get into the coping mechanisms, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of social anxiety. By knowing the symptoms as they initially appear, it may be possible to start treating SAD before it intensifies any further.

Symptoms of social anxiety

Every single person is different from one another. Therefore, the symptoms of social anxiety are unique to each individual. That being said, they always follow a simple pattern: The inability to communicate with others without experiencing fear or discomfort. Most people, even those without SAD, might have problems dealing with certain social situations. However, for people that are suffering from SAD, triggering social situations becomes all but impossible to deal with. Here are some of the most common social situations that might trigger SAD:

  • Speaking in public
  • Using a public restroom
  • Being the initiator of the conversation
  • Talking to a stranger
  • Going to large gatherings (parties, concerts, etc.)
  • Going to a job interview
  • Dating

Basically, any social situation where a person might be perceived as judged has the potential to trigger social anxiety. What might be simply uncomfortable for most people is downright terrifying for anyone that has a social anxiety disorder. People suffering from SAD need a way to cope and might turn to drugs and alcohol. And after a while, they may ask does insurance cover alcohol rehab? Quite honestly, you don’t want to get to that question if you can help it.

$100 bills
Treating alcohol addiction can get very expensive.

Physical symptoms

And to make matters worse, social anxiety does not produce only psychological symptoms. As you may already know, stress can cause all sorts of physical problems, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Tension in the muscles
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness

Dealing with all these symptoms on a regular basis is a frightening prospect. But that is what people with SAD are going through every single day. Aside from the abovementioned symptoms, people with social anxiety may experience erratic sleep patterns, difficulties falling asleep, or trouble concentrating. All of these issues stem from the fact that people with SAD are overthinking and over-analyzing every single social interaction that they are a part of. And that does not stop when the interaction is over, it carries away even when they are alone.

Every single person that has SAD needs a coping mechanism. Most people limit their social interactions, others avoid them entirely, and yet others turn to drugs and alcohol. In worst cases, these people might experience a drug addiction of the worst sort (such as heroin addiction) and need to visit a heroin rehab Florida institution to get rid of it. While alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety is far milder than heroin, it is still quite dangerous. To fully understand why people turn to alcohol and drugs, we need to first understand what is a coping mechanism.

What is a coping mechanism?

A coping mechanism, basically, is anything that helps someone deal with difficult situations. Every coping mechanism provides a tangible benefit, whether that benefit is perceived or “real”. Examples of good coping mechanisms include meditation, journaling, positive talking, reframing, and therapy. Bad coping mechanisms include anything that may bring negative consequences after prolonged use, such as alcohol and drugs. For some people, enrolling in an intensive outpatient program Florida solution is the best way to deal with their SAD. Unfortunately, however, most people choose the “easy way out” such as relying on alcohol to help them overcome their social anxiety. Relying on any substance to overcome your fears is detrimental in the long run, and many people develop a habit or an addiction that can be very difficult to break.

person meditating instead of using alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety
Meditation is a prime example of a good coping mechanism.

Alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety

Around 20% of people who suffer from social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). This works both ways, as about 25% of people who have AUD can also be diagnosed with SAD. The reason for these numbers is the fact that, in the US, alcohol is connected with relieving social anxiety. A prime example is the famous show “The Big Bang Theory”, where a certain character is portrayed as not being able to talk to women without alcohol. And it is not only the show, either. Alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety is also widely known as “liquid courage” or “social lubricant”.

The fact of the matter is that, for many people, alcohol simply “works” as a coping mechanism. Alcohol itself is a depressant, meaning that it helps slow down the nervous system and provides a certain sense of relaxation. It also releases dopamine inside our bodies which, in turn, provides a slight sensation of euphoria. The fact that alcohol works as a coping mechanism is the primary reason why some people ask whether is rehab covered under FMLA after a certain time. Alcohol has an astounding potential to lead one on the wrong path, after all.

Dangers of alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety

There are many dangers of alcohol use. Aside from the fact that you are practically poisoning your body, there are three “big” ones:

  • Addiction
  • Damage to relationships
  • Inability to develop other coping skills

There’s also the fact that alcohol is readily available. If you are of a certain age (or know someone who is and is willing to procure alcohol for you), you can obtain alcohol simply by walking into a liquor store. You don’t need a prescription for alcohol. Speaking of prescription, alcohol has negative interactions with all sorts of prescription drugs. It is quite common that people who develop an addiction to alcohol also have an addiction to prescription drugs, ultimately ending in Florida prescription drugs addiction treatment. No matter how difficult it might be for you to cope with social situations, you should never rely on alcohol to be your coping mechanism. Let’s see exactly why that is the case.

person yelling at another person
Alcohol has a tendency to break relationships apart.


The more you drink alcohol, the more tolerance to it you build. As time passes on, you will require more and more of the stuff to get the same effect. And at some point, you may develop a physical dependence on the substance and even form an addiction. If this happens, you will have to contend with withdrawal symptoms when you are not drinking. Alcohol addiction symptoms include tremors, headaches, and insomnia. They can even be lethal in severe cases of addiction. While enrolling in an alcohol rehab Florida program will help with addiction, it is always preferable not to have to go down that road. Furthermore, alcohol addiction can never be “truly” cured, it can only be managed. Even a past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction.

Damage to relationships

More often than not, relying on alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety will cause harm to your relationships. For example, while marriage can survive alcohol or drug addiction, the truth is that many marriages will not. The best case scenario is that alcohol use only creates a small distance between you and the people you love. At worst, alcohol can break relationships apart. It is much harder to keep feelings in check under the alcohol’s influence, which may lead to angry outbursts, fighting, and irresponsible behavior. And, as you might imagine, those can break a relationship rather quickly.

Inability to develop other coping skills

But the greatest danger of alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety is the fact that while you are relying on alcohol, you are not developing good coping mechanisms or other coping skills. You are just going deeper into the proverbial rabbit hole, without any means of getting out. Alcohol becomes your crutch and prevents you from finding healthy coping ways.

Alcohol can make social anxiety even worse

Have you ever heard of “Hangxiety?”. This phenomenon is connected with feelings of depression, irritability, and anxiety after the effects of alcohol wear off. These effects can happen as soon as after a few hours after drinking. Once your body has finished processing the alcohol, your social anxiety will be back “in full force”, even stronger than before. And that is where most people simply drink more alcohol to get rid of it.

person recovering from alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety
Alcohol can produce both a hangover and hangxiety.

Once that happens, developing alcohol use disorder becomes much more likely and a visit to an alcohol rehab Florida center might be in the books, as well. Luckily, most people realize this fact and are eager to try and break the habit. The good news is, it is not only possible but a lot easier than you might think.

Breaking the habit

Alcohol is not the only thing that can help you manage your social anxiety, far from it. Here are some of the ways that you can get over your SAD without needing a lick of alcohol:

  • Practice mindful breathing
  • “Ground” yourself
  • Learn how anxiety works
  • Connect to others who might be in the same “boat”
  • Journaling
  • Reach out for help

While most of these strategies will require some time and effort on your part, it is in your best interest to explore them all. You might also want to try and find alternative coping mechanisms on your own, as we are all unique. What works for others might not work for you. That being said, these techniques were proven time and time again. They can really make all the difference. And if you are coming off an alcohol addiction, you will also want to try and create a relapse prevention plan. The more thought you put into it, the better. Now, let’s take a look at these coping strategies and techniques in a bit more detail.

Mindful breathing

Rapid breathing is one of the most common symptoms of social anxiety. Rapid breathing is basically preparing our bodies for a “fight or flight” situation due to anxiety or excessive stress. That is why the first thing that you need to do is try and get your breathing under control. This sounds rather easy, as all you need to do is take slow, deep breaths. However, mindful breathing is extremely difficult to do in a stressful situation. That is where the “mindful” part comes in. You need to be aware that you are experiencing an anxiety attack and that you need to do something about it. This is not a skill that you can instantly learn, it’s a skill that requires practice.

person using mindful breathing instead of alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety
Mindful breathing will help you relax and prepare for situations to come.

But the more you practice it, the easier it will become. And it really helps, as deep breathing will eliminate some of the lightheadedness and dizziness that are usually associated with social anxiety. You may want to practice deep breathing in a controlled environment first. Try deep breathing for 20 minutes each morning to prepare yourself for the challenges of the day. The more comfortable you become with it, the easier it will be to execute when it really matters.

“Grounding” yourself

Grounding yourself is an amazing technique that can help you keep your SAD in check. This very simple exercise (also known as the 5-4-3-2-1 method) will help you shift your thoughts and “center” yourself. Basically, what you need to do is list the five things you can hear, four things you can see, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Again, similarly to mindful breathing, this is a skill that requires practice. You will want to practice this exercise until it becomes second nature to you. Once you practice enough, you will be able to slowly change your brain’s stress response and manage your social anxiety that way.

Learning more about anxiety

Many people that suffer from social anxiety do not even know what is happening to them. They may believe they are having a heart attack and panic even more. By knowing that your symptoms are caused by SAD, you are being empowered to do something about it. Recognizing the symptoms of social anxiety allows you to prevent any further panic and stop the anxiety in its proverbial tracks.

Connecting to others

Being in the throes of social anxiety is a very isolating feeling. You may think that you are the only one that is different, and that is something very wrong with you. The reality is that you are not alone, that there are millions of people that are going through a similar experience. By connecting to people who understand your struggles, you will be able to get a new perspective and perhaps learn a trick or two. You can get easy answers to all the questions you might have, such as does Humana cover rehab, why aren’t your coping strategies working, etc. The best way to find like-minded people is to join a support group or attend group counseling sessions.

a support group
Joining a support group will make dealing with both alcohol and social anxiety much easier.

Also, surround yourself with people that understand what you are going through. Eliminate all the people that encourage you to drink and manage your SAD that way from your life. They are not doing you any favors, after all.


Journaling is one of the best ways to manage stress. By keeping a journal of your activities, thoughts, and behaviors, you will be able to figure out patterns between interactions and social anxiety. The simple act of putting your thoughts on paper is highly therapeutic, as well. You can simply narrate your anxiety through consciousness journaling, or you can make your journals in a letter format where you write down what would you say if your fear did not get the better of you. Over time, journaling will help you change both your thoughts and behavior for the better.

Reaching out

Sometimes, there is not much you can actually do about your social anxiety on your own. As mentioned previously, we are all unique. If you find that you simply cannot cope with your anxiety without alcohol, it may be the perfect time to reach out to professionals. Many people used professional rehab centers for breaking the addiction cycle in the family, and they are now much better off. These institutions will provide you with access to various therapy modalities, such as CBT, DBT, 12-step programs, and many more.

person undergoing treatment
Professional treatment will help you feel much better.

Replacing alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety with treatment

Whether you need help with your AUD or your SAD, professional treatment is the “way to go”. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best way to get your social anxiety under control, as it involves identifying and changing your emotions and thought patterns. For breaking the alcohol habit, you have several options such as:

  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Day treatment programs
  • Residential treatment programs
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy

Basically, there’s a treatment modality for every situation. The best course of treatment will depend on the severity of your addiction, the “root” of the problem, and the situations you are using alcohol to cope with. But once you find the ideal treatment, replacing alcohol as a coping mechanism for social anxiety will become a reality. Remember that you can always contact Bright Futures Treatment Center and have each treatment modality thoroughly explained to you. We will be there for you.

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