The Link between Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcoholism

William Kellogg
April 5, 2019
alcoholism and social anxiety

The practical connection between many types of anxiety disorders and alcoholism has never been well elucidated. But surprisingly, new research suggests that, unlike other anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders may have a direct effect on alcoholism.

Social anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that is characterized by intense, on-going fear of being watched and judged by others. The disorder is of multiple etiologies and it usually characterized by extreme fear, paranoia and even siege mentality. It affects work, family, school and social interactions.

The study involved the random assessment of many types of anxiety disorders and specific phobias through semi-structured interviews with 2801 adult Norwegian twins. The participants were accessed for alcoholism, panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorders. The findings of the survey showed that social anxiety disorder had the strongest association with alcoholism and also predicted higher risk of developing anxiety disorders as the disorder progresses.

There have been general speculations and some misconceptions concerning the effect of alcoholism and anxiety disorders. It is often assumed that alcohol consumption actually helps reduce social-anxiety disorder symptoms. The result of this survey is not far-fetched as opposed to popular misconceptions that alcohol consumption might be helpful during episodes of anxiety. In fact, it is estimated that about 20 percent of individuals living with social anxiety disorder and other forms of anxiety also suffer from alcohol dependence or abuse. Well, this calming effect is only temporary which only after a while the sufferer becomes even more anxious and extremely irritable and afterwards becoming depressed. The issue with social anxiety disorder (and other forms of anxiety disorders) is that most individuals living with anxiety are not in treatment. Even most that are being treated are not complaint and most do not report their alcohol use to their healthcare providers. Moreover, it is difficult to diagnose social-anxiety disorder.

Research suggests that social anxiety disorder usually begins in the youth, especially among young introverts and it can remain asymptomatic for years. And it can be long-lasting as it could be without treatment and it has the potential to render an individual ineffective academically, professionally, and socially.

Interventions to treat social anxiety disorder using means that will achieve sobriety, wellness which is usually combined with pharmacological interventions such as antidepressants such as Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Sertraline (Zoloft). Another form of therapy involves psychological measures such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The goal of Cognitive behavioral therapy is to build confidence, learn skills that help you manage the situations that scare you most, and then freely get out into the world without becoming anxious. It involves several method such as team-work, engaging in public speaking, teaching and practicing social skills. This method is effective when combined with medications since it teaches behaviors that will help manage anxiety on your own without having to depend on medications and the effect is life-long. It also teaches how to focus.

Lastly, this results of this finding has also shown that any intervention, be it pharmacological or psychological, that is aimed to treat anxiety disorder and not combined with attempts to prevent alcoholism maybe less than optimal than interventions that are also aimed at preventing alcoholism. Hence, interventions, aimed at prevention of treatment of social anxiety disorder will also be beneficial in preventing alcoholism.

William Kellogg

William Kellogg is a veteran writer who's covered the subject of the intersection of technology, health and mental wellness for nearly two decades.

More For You