The challenge is that, initially, using alcohol to manage social anxiety does seem to work. However, as the body and mind start to tolerate the use of alcohol more and more is needed to obtain the same effects and so a physical and psychological dependency develops that can easily lead to alcohol addiction and thus the requirement for alcohol addiction treatment.
It seems so simple and straight forward, doesn't it? I feel anxious about an up-coming social engagement so I'll have an alcoholic drink to calm me. Just one. A glass of wine, a pint or a vodka and tonic. And at first it seems to work. My anxiety seems to diminish and I feel I can manage the social situation. But what about the next time?
Will that one glass be enough? What do I do if I still feel anxious or panicky, do I have another drink? And then another and another? At what point do I move from self-medicating to just being drunk?
The Catch 22 is that so many social events involve alcohol. If everyone else is drinking, can it be so wrong for me to drink to soothe my social anxiety? Will anyone even know that I am not drinking for pleasure, but to manage my difficult and unbearable thoughts and feelings?
The challenge is that, initially, using alcohol to manage social anxiety does seem to work. It has a sedative effect that seems to lower the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety (blushing, profuse sweating, nausea, fear of being watched and judged by others) and makes social situations feel more manageable. Social inhibitions start to decrease and there can be an illusory sense of self-confidence. However, as the body and mind start to tolerate the use of alcohol more and more is needed to obtain the same effects and so a physical and psychological dependency develops that can easily lead to alcohol addiction and thus the requirement for alcohol addiction treatment.
Using alcohol to manage your social anxiety is not a viable solution, however easy it seems at first. Long-term heavy alcohol use can cause oral, stomach and liver cancers as well as a number of other physical conditions such as pancreatitis. Alcohol also seriously effects the brain functioning, slowing cognition and impairing memory. Long-term heavy use of alcohol is also associated with depression and self-harm, and is linked to 65% of all suicides in the UK. In extreme cases, long-term heavy alcohol use has been linked to psychosis, a severe mental health problems where the person experiences hallucinations and delusions.
So it seems that using alcohol to help manage social anxiety is not the answer. Certain forms of psychotherapy can be very helpful, however. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you address your underlying thoughts about yourself and the social situations and change your behaviours, as well as help you work on your self-esteem and self-confidence. Some medications may also be useful to help you manage some of the physical symptoms of social anxiety in the short-term.
The alcohol addiction treatment programme at Life Works can help you address all of these issues and empowers you to engage with social situations confidently and without needing to use alcohol. For those with a physical dependency we can also provide a medicated assisted alcohol Detox.