alcohol and social anxiety

The Link Between Alcohol and Social Anxiety

When considering what may drive someone to use alcohol as a soothing panacea for managing mental health disorders it is helpful to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between social anxiety and alcohol abuse. It isn’t difficult to identify the causal nature of this link, considering the effects of social anxiety on a person. For individuals who suffer from social anxiety, the intense level of discomfort in social situations can lead to an array of physical symptoms. These include a racing heart, spiked cortisol and adrenaline production, palpitations, sweating, shaking, and nausea. Alcohol can behave as a very quick antidote to these symptoms, producing a calming, relaxing effect in moments.

But as with all substances that produce chemical changes in the brain, alcohol can create a whole host of additional problems on top of the social anxiety it is supposed to be helping. The partnership between alcohol and social anxiety becomes symbiotic, that is the effects of one enhance the effects of the other, as a vicious cycle. Alcohol abuse can enhance the anxiety symptoms, as well as contribute to depression and many negative consequences in one’s life.

Why Do Those With Social Anxiety Use Alcohol?

Someone with social anxiety disorder typically has an intense fear of social events and interactions. This can include fearing simple activities like eating a meal in public or something associated with an extreme fear of being judged, such as public speaking. It has been found that 20% of those who suffer from social anxiety disorder also present with a comorbid alcohol use disorder, according to the article by Book and Randall, “Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Use.” Alcohol can help these individuals relax in social settings, reducing the anxiety symptoms associated with the social phobia.

For those who dread the prospect of being scrutinized or criticized publically, turning to alcohol can be the last thing they do before leaving the house. Self-medicating fears away is only going to provide a temporary Band-Aid as more and more of the substance will inevitably be needed to relax.

Signs of Alcohol Dependency

Alcohol dependency comes in stealthily, like a thief in the night attempting to rob one of everything they hold dear. While the alcohol started out as a crutch for managing social anxiety, over time increased tolerance resulted in higher levels of alcohol consumption. There are some specific signs that alcohol abuse has evolved into a disorder. These signs include:

  • Being unable to control the levels of alcohol consumption. No shut-off capability
  • Turn to alcohol first thing in the morning
  • Hiding alcohol in the house or at work, or lying about alcohol use
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Excessive absences from work or classes
  • Decline in work or academic performance
  • Obsess about getting alcohol, having enough on hand, anticipating drinking
  • Try to quit alcohol but cannot stop
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when try to quit

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Treating social anxiety will involved a combination of targeted psychotherapy and the use of medication. The psychotherapy best suited for treating social anxiety disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In addition, exposure therapies are also helpful in assisting individuals in overcoming their fear of social situations.

Antidepressants may be effective in managing the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. In addition, other types of antidepressants, such as the SNRI has been shown to be effective for this anxiety disorder. Anti-anxiety medications may also help reduce feelings of anxiety in a stressful situation, however these drugs have a high propensity for abuse and addiction.

Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder

When seeking help for an alcohol use disorder the first step in the process of recovery will be the detoxification process. Alcohol detox should always be conducted in the safe and supportive detox environment. Alcohol detox can suddenly introduce serious health risks, such as seizures or the delirium tremens, so detox should never be done without appropriate supervision.

Once the detox is completed, it is time to transition to treatment for the alcohol and social anxiety disorders. Both disorders should be treated simultaneously using psychotherapy, such as CBT and motivational enhancement therapy, medication, 12-step programming, and adjunctive activities that can enhance the conventional treatments. These might include recreational therapy, mindfulness, EMDR therapy, yoga, and hypnotherapy.

Ken Seeley Communities Treats Dual Diagnosis in Palm Springs

Ken Seeley Communities is an integrated alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment center in California. At Ken Seeley Communities, great lengths are taken to match the needs of each individual client based on their particular substance of abuse or co-occurring mental health condition. For alcohol and social anxiety, a comprehensive approach to treating the co-occurring disorders would involve evidence-based therapies that are targeted toward social anxiety disorder. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and exposure-based therapies. The alcohol use disorder should be treated simultaneously for the best recovery outcome. For more information about our recovery services, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.

Dual Diagnosis Alcohol and Depression

Dual Diagnosis Alcohol and Depression

A dual diagnosis occurs when an individual is struggling with both a substance use disorder and a coexisting mental health disorder. Dual diagnosis is a complex and prevalent condition that impacts about 25% of those with a drug or alcohol addiction, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of those, the most common is the dual diagnosis alcohol and depression combination.

There are two ways the dual diagnosis alcohol and depression can develop. In some cases, the individual is experience a major depressive episode and may turn to alcohol as a means of self-medicating their emotional pain away. Over time, the tolerance to alcohol increases, resulting in more excessive drinking and potentially alcohol addiction. This is a situation where depression was a precursor to alcoholism. In others, the individual develops alcoholism first. As the consequences that result from the alcohol addiction mount, depression can set in, indicating that alcoholism can trigger a depressive disorder. In both scenarios, the dual diagnosis alcohol and depression is the outcome.

This particular dual diagnosis is a particularly dangerous one. Because alcohol is a depressant, and can cause major devastation in all aspects of one’s life, when co-occurring with depression there is a higher risk of suicide. In fact, suicide rates among alcoholics are exorbitantly high. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, among alcoholics, the lifetime risk of suicide is 10%-15%, and that, in fact, depression and alcoholism were comorbid in 85% of 100 cases of completed suicide.

Treatment for individuals who present with this dual diagnosis of alcohol and depression will need to be provided through a specialized dual diagnosis provider where both disorders will be treated simultaneously for the best recovery outcome. These programs include psychiatric expertise on staff that are trained to respond to the issues that may emerge during detoxification and rehab.

Signs of the Dual Diagnosis Alcohol and Depression Co-Occurrence

The symptoms of both disorders, depressive disorder and alcohol dependency, will be evident in individuals who have developed this dual diagnosis. These symptoms include:

Depression

  • Sadness, despair, hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of desire to participate in usual activities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Slowed motor and cognitive functioning
  • Inappropriate feelings of shame or guilt
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts

Alcoholism

  • Tolerance increases causing increased alcohol consumption
  • Experiences blackouts
  • Increasing time spent thinking about, obtaining alcohol, and recovering from drinking
  • Continue to drink despite negative consequences
  • Secretive behavior, hiding alcohol, lying about how much is being consumed
  • Efforts to quit or cut back are ineffective
  • Physical signs include bloating, glassy eyes, ruddy complexion
  • Withdrawal signs commence when alcohol is not available

Characteristics of Alcoholism and Coexisting Depression

The fallout for this dual diagnosis can be exceptional. Struggling with both depression and alcohol dependency can result in a slew of negative consequences. This can be due to the increased impulsivity of the alcoholic, an increase in risk-taking behaviors, and neglecting obligations, among other causes.

Consequences of the dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression might include:

  • Loss of job
  • Divorce or interpersonal relationship issues
  • Loss of custody
  • Financial consequences due to job loss
  • Legal problems, such as getting a DUI
  • Health problems, such as pancreatitis, liver disease, heart disease, cancer
  • Accidents that result in injury to self or others, or damaged property

Individuals with a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression should not ignore the need for professional help. Loved ones who recognize these signs and symptoms are encouraged to seek out treatment for the individual.

Suicide Prevention

One of the more devastating consequences of alcoholism/depression co-occurring disorders is the dramatically increased risk of suicide. Primary care providers are being trained to assess for risk of suicide among patients who are alcohol dependent, hopefully increasing referrals to addiction treatment programs. These patients should be questioned about possible presence of depression symptoms as a way of identifying suicide risk in this group.

Suicide awareness includes recognizing symptoms such as:

  • Prolonged and persistent sadness, signs of hopelessness
  • The individual conveys the opinion that his or her loved ones are better off without them
  • Isolating behaviors
  • Loneliness
  • Successive setbacks that occur, such as relationship problems, loss of employment, financial difficulties
  • Appear to be giving away prized possessions
  • Making end of life arrangements
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones and friends
  • Acquiring the means to commit suicide, such as a firearm, rope, pills

Comprehensive Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Treatment for the dual diagnosis will involve a full spectrum of therapeutic interventions that work together in an integrated approach to recovery. These treatment elements include:

Residential detox and withdrawal: Alcohol detox should always be supervised, as potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms can suddenly emerge. 

Individual psychotherapy: Therapy is an essential core element for treating both disorders. The therapist will guide the individual to examine sources of emotional pain and help them resolve these. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy helps shift addiction responses toward positive, productive behavioral responses, as well as teaching coping skills.

Group counseling. Group therapy supports peer interaction and is a source for sharing and accountability.

Relapse Prevention: Individuals create a detailed relapse prevention strategy by identifying specific triggers or situations that could lead to relapse, and response strategies as well.

Continuing care services: Following completion of the program, sober living housing, 12-step group participation, and outpatient counseling are strongly encouraged.

Ken Seeley Communities Provides Expert Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Ken Seeley Communities is a Palm Springs-based addiction and dual diagnosis recovery program. The expert dual diagnosis clinical staff is trained to treat both disorders, alcoholism and depression, concurrently, providing detox, rehab, and sober living transitional housing. Ken Seeley Communities features a unique approach to guiding individuals into recovery, including intervention services and a subsequent continuum of care throughout the recovery process. For more detail about the program, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.