Is Social Anxiety making you drink?

shyness-social-anxietySocial anxiety is a common problem, characterised by being apprehensive and nervous about potential rejection or humiliation by other people.

If you find yourself getting worried about upcoming social events, and imagining how uncomfortable they’re going to be, or how other people will notice your anxiety, then you might well get into the habit of drinking alcohol in order to calm your nerves.

You might believe that you will behave in an unacceptable way, which will result in other people making an unfavourable evaluation of you, and this feels very threatening. You might believe that people will think you are weak, crazy, stupid or boring, and as such you might find it very difficult to engage in conversation or eat a meal.

Sometimes social anxiety escalates to include a panic attack, which can then fuel further anxiety, as you become worried that another panic will occur next time you socialise.

As such you might often find yourself preoccupied with thoughts about your visible symptoms of anxiety (sweating, blushing etc.), and how other people might be viewing them. You really want to make a good impression, but you’re worried that you’re just not able to. Social phobia like this can simply be described as a fear of being embarrassed.

As such, the consumption of alcohol can become an easy solution for people finding themselves in this position – drinking quickly and easily reduces the anxious feelings, boosts confidence and aids conversation. However, many people find that they end up binge drinking, and thus embarrassing themselves in exactly the way they were hoping to avoid.

Next week, we’ll look at how this problem can be overcome.

16 Comments

  1. Joe 3 November, 2014 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Which came first..the chicken or the egg? My anxiety and my relation ship with alcohol is very much like that question. I now realise that im anxious regardless if I drink or not, very much more so after a binge. I used to get monster panic attacks, avoidance behaviour, couldn’t leave the house, end up I struggled to go from room to room. Anxiety had beat me! I remember lying in tears telling my partner I could never go another holiday or enjoy my kids achieving at school. I lived like this for over 10 years.
    To anyone in this position, do not give up, anxiety in any degree is beatable, and I mean very beatable, emphasis on word “beatable”. You need to employ a new frame of mind and it begins with this simple statement “is this gonna beat me, or am I beat this?” Every journey begins with a step. Next step address fact that if your drinking is causing this, well simple mechanics here, if you keep drinking like you are, then its not going to get better. So your drinking has to change. Confront your panic attatcks…and yeah I know your gonna die..trust me you wont, and they become manageable. My panic attatcks lasted for maybe 15 mins, stopped for about 5 continued for about 15, all in beginning, I know how hard this is. Theres so much I could write here, but let me say this, you really have to curb the drink, you need to open your mind and you need a backbone. If you can take all this onboard I can guarantee you, your life will get better. I’m going on holiday with my grand daughter in a few weeks :o)

    • Luci 26 April, 2015 at 11:20 am - Reply

      Wow you have shared my story feelings wise ! , getting from room to room was hell , the aniexty i sufferered was hell . I had been sober for 5 years and in the end I surrendered to alcohol again , now I won’t lie it worked but I was having to use 2 bottles litre bottles of 40% blue label vodka a day . I ended in ICU with acute pancreatitis at 30 years old. I was given 4 hours to live it was so painful I vommited over 300+ times if anything I under exsadurated that . On top I had the DTs . I am sober now but my abusing patner hates it he trying to get me to drink . I can’t leave as ive no money and a child . All I can say is some ppl are evil . They don’t get depression or aniexty they just get kicks out of hurting other people . That’s a bridge I will cross when I am stronger at the moment staying sober is my primary goal as for aniexty it’s bloody awful it dosent really ever go unless I drink but That’s not an option !!! Good luck ppl ive tryed over 20 differant therapists not any realy helped .. It sucks one day I hope to find peace of mind love to all xxx ps ive tried various meds the only one that ever worked was valuim but that’s evil to come off so ive HAD to stay on 10mg a day been on it since I was 12 as my father was also an abusing alcoholic . I had my first panic attack that I recall at 10 thought I was going to swallow my tongue .

      • Leona 12 April, 2017 at 1:52 am - Reply

        Please get home if you’re partner ‘s being abusive. My mum didn’t for years and it’s the thing she regret’s most. I know you think it”s best to keep going with it, but it really isn’t. No for you, not for your mental health and not from your child x

  2. Cat 6 July, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

    I couldn’t imagine doing at least most of my social interactions without alcohol. I have tried so many other means of relaxation but nothing is quite the same. Not only does alcohol make you tolerate being social (without which, socialising feels like very hard work) and stop physical symptoms like shaking, blushing, heart racing, but it actually even lets you ENJOY being social. For someone with SA, that is an incredible feeling. No idea how to break free of this trap. It becomes very unhealthy!

    • Shey 1 October, 2014 at 1:31 am - Reply

      I have selective mutism and no access to alcohol (yes I am smart enough to know how to get access but that process requires talking to people and I’m too anxiou/shy to actually go through with it!!) so believe me I get it. It’s fucking near impossible for me to speak let alone speak at a volume above a whisper and when I tried a certain pill for the first time it was like magic.
      But, I’m just curious, how did you go through these social situations when you were a kid and before you had access to drugs and alcohol? Or did you not have too much anxiety then?

  3. To David Mortimer 19 May, 2014 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    You be careful there, David. That is how it started in my case and I am an alcoholic now. It will only get worse if you carry on. Take care.

    Eileen

    • Amoy 25 September, 2014 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      Drugs have side effects so it’s beettr to avoid them.A certain breathing exercise helps. Try to inhale counting to 3 and then exhale counting to 6. (You can choose how many seconds you inhale and them multiply by 2 the exhaling time). This helps you relax and your blood pressure will be lower so it’s easier to fall asleep.Hope this helps! Was this answer helpful?

  4. David Mortimer 27 March, 2014 at 11:28 am - Reply

    I am 43 year old male and I have SA , I can not go into a social situation unless I know I can drink other wise I avoid them , drink is the magic confidence booster its the only thing I know of that is a short cut to confidence I hate what its doing to me and my confidence , for that one night in the week that I drink I have to pay hell for it the next 3 days with terrible post drinking anxiety , paranoia and a dark feeling of foreboding I work out a lot to deal with it ,lately I notice my memory has alcohol Cloud, I’m forgetting things and my short term memory is on the blink.
    I had one girl friend ever and she was from from Germany I moved out there to live for 2 years but came home due to my SA and my lack of commitment to the relationship I wanted to be free to booze and lose again , now I cant find any one to replace her and at this rate with my SA and weekend Binge drinking I probably never will , I feel its just not worth the hassle and am now going to be a Bachelor but that does not mean I don’t want to quit binge drinking to get me through social situations I know its a dead end way of life also its money down the drain , I probably need help but I’m afraid to find it because it hasn’t worked in the past , I should be grateful for what I have in my life but having SA is a curse that is always there , I have gone for counseling before but most of it was rubbish and expensive , at the end of the day no one can really help you except your self.

    • Shey 1 October, 2014 at 1:44 am - Reply

      I feel you! My dad and grandmother both had Selective Mutism just like me (it’s not as freaky as it sounds it’s just basically like social phobia on steroids) and my dad was incredibly talented and smart and successful and wealthy and all that shit but he just drank his life away. He could not be around people except family unless he had a scotch in his hand. He eventually died of alcoholism when I was 10 and it was sad as fuck because he wasn’t a bad person at all. I’m almost 18 now and have never drank regularly. But yeah I know what you mean!!! I wish I actually had started drinking regularly at a younger age so that I could have actually lived my teenage years. Social anxiety/selective mutism/extreme shyness is SUCH a curse especially when you want to talk and you logically know that there’s nothing to be afraid of but you just can’t fucking relax, let alone talk! My poor, hardworking parents have spent a fortune and a half paying for very expensive treatment centers, therapy, therapeutic boarding schools, counselors, psychologists, fucking life coaches, everything. The Troubled Teen Therapy business is one that is catered to extremely well to do families that have enough money to buy into any sort of crap they throw at you likek a fucking Transitional Life Coach and it breaks my heart to see my extremely not wealthy stepfather and mother pay for all this.

  5. scrappyt 2 April, 2013 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Im still failing with abstention. But i keep trying to hold on to the firm knowledge that even with social anxiety, if i leave a function, party, meeting etc, sober. i know nothing else affected my mood/behaviour, but me….and it eventually becomes an ok/almost good memory or time… but if im drunk, after a few days to a few weeks,..it remains in my memory as a negative. i cant really explain it, and i certainly haven’t managed to let it change my habits yet, .. but it is part of why i keep trying to not drink. just keep trying to stop, keep trying to stop.stopping all together is the only way, for at least 3 years anyway.

  6. Mark 24 March, 2013 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Hi. I have been drinking since I was a teen. Alcohol is a very old friend. I found myself drinking every day after work. I have been out of work for over 5 years now, but I still find that I binge drink once a week. Not on any given time or day. I live alone… and I have become misanthropic. Not that I am mean-spirited, but I have a tendency to see the bad in others. I have suffered abuse in my marriage and growing up with a crazy father. I am hoping that I can one day stop. I would love to get some treatment, bbut my faith in my will, is not good. I am here to hopefully check out what you have to offer. Thanks.

  7. BellaVitori2274 8 January, 2013 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    How many of you have gone through a program and been able to moderate (having two glasses of wine, for example) instead of abstain? I love wine, and don’t want to give it up forever, but my tolerance and abuse of alcohol has made this impossible right now.

    Any ideas from people who have succeeded in this?

  8. Carol 13 September, 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Does drinking alcohol make your gums bleed?
    I don’t drink through the sort of stress shown above, but as I am disabled I drink more than I should and am having a struggle to control it. The prospect of the new “welfare” bill and how that might effect me aren’t helping!

    • Rebecca 14 September, 2012 at 3:59 am - Reply

      No, not that I know of, you might have periodontal disease. You should go for a dental checkup.

    • Pumpkin 28 November, 2016 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      I know this is a bit late, as you posted a long time ago, but I find that white wine or rosé can make my gums bleed. They can be quite acid if they’re dry.

      I got over this by drinking something else and using toothpaste from the pharmacy for a couple of months, I do drink wine but less, and I find organic wine isn’t quite so bad. Oh and drinking less helps with the gums too, lol.

  9. Rebecca 13 September, 2012 at 5:33 am - Reply

    This was my main downfall, I started drinking as a teenager from social anxiety and shyness. I immediately felt like had more friends and gained popularity. The problem is that over the years it became an addiction and was really affecting my health and life in a negative way. However, when I quit, I realized that I had grown up a lot and had more confidence than back then, it almost came as a surprise. I didn’t even know I would have that feeling until I quit, I actually had more confidence because I felt like I had taken back control (not to mention more years of experience talking to people). You really don’t know until you try, you might be surprised! There aren’t very many situations I can’t handle now without a drink, I still fall, but for the most part, I feel more confident sober. It’s still hard for me when everyone else is drinking around you, it’s tough, but can be done.

Leave A Comment