Overcoming Social Anxiety in Addiction Recovery
Overcoming social anxiety is something that can weigh heavy on our minds, when coming into recovery from addiction.
Statistics show that as many as 40 percent of the population suffer from social anxiety.
This percentage is likely to have risen since social restrictions around coronavirus came into play.
Suffering from social anxiety is common both in active addiction and during recovery. So if you feel social anxiety is holding you back, you are not alone.
Happily, we have some professional tips on how to overcome social anxiety that have been proven to work.
Recoverlution are also here to help you with social connection. Our dedicated to addiction wellness platform will help you to connect with like-minded others, freely and easily. We also offer a wealth of wellness content to help improve your quality of life as you join us in our journey of addiction recovery.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety has crippling effects on a sufferer, yet it is often overlooked or misunderstood.
A person suffering from social anxiety could well be mistaken for being antisocial. When in fact the mere thought of social interaction can send them into full-on panic mode.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a long-term mental health condition that is characterised by an overwhelming fear of social situations.
It is common for social anxiety to start during the teenage years whilst the brain is still developing. If not treated properly, this is when a person may turn to substances to dampen and mask their feelings.
For most people, social anxiety can diminish as they get older. However, if you have used substances in the past to deal with the symptoms of this condition, it is likely it will return once you are in recovery.
Suffering from social anxiety in addiction recovery can have a huge impact on your quality of life. Social connection during recovery is such an important aspect of staying in recovery and avoiding relapse.
If you are in recovery, or trying to get clean and sober, social anxiety is something you will want to overcome so that it does not hold you back from getting truly well.
Symptoms of social anxiety
Social anxiety differs from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) as it is specific to social situations.
If you suffer from social anxiety it is likely you will:
- Try to avoid social gatherings or worry excessively over what you will say and do at them
- Feel extremely anxious about meeting new people
- Have difficulty maintaining friendships and relationships
- Overthink social gatherings before, during and after the event
- Have an intense fear of being criticised or people thinking badly of you
- Delay making important phone calls and decisions, even if it is just to make an appointment at the doctor
- Fear doing or saying things when others are watching (feel you are being judged)
- Suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth
- Struggle to attend face-to-face recovery meetings or speak at an internet meeting
- Have symptoms relating to social situations such as sweating, feeling sick, stomach pain, trembling and even panic attacks
Social situations for a person who has social anxiety can strike fear into their very core, causing excessive worrying and even panic.
7 tips to help overcome social anxiety
Before approaching a doctor or counsellor for help, there are some things that you may wish to try that could help you to overcome social anxiety by yourself.
1. Take note
It is often helpful to keep a journal and rate when you are feeling anxious from 0-10, 10 being the most anxious. When you are feeling anxious write in your journal the thoughts that are provoking anxiety and rate them. This will build a picture for you of which situations or thoughts are causing you to feel the most and least anxious.
Once you have a pattern identified you can then start to tackle the least anxiety-provoking things in your journal with gradual exposure therapy. For example, if having a coffee in a quiet coffee shop with a friend rates under a 5, then doing this more often should help you to feel more comfortable. Confidence is something that is built up slowly and comes with time and experience.
You can also put in place things that help to bring your levels of anxiety down. For example, if having a plan to leave early or taking a friend helps you feel less anxious then do that. Try to take the pressure off yourself.
More often than not someone who is highly anxious will create every worst case scenario in their thoughts. The reality is often very different.
Besides every anxious thought, you can also write a positive thought to counteract it. An example of this would be changing ‘Everyone will be staring at me!’ to ‘Everyone will engage in their own conduct and not pay attention to mine’. The latter is a far more realistic prospect.
2. Share your feelings
If there is something that you really need to do but feel extremely anxious over, sharing your thoughts and feelings can be very beneficial.
Anxiety stems from thinking, so sharing what is going on in your mind can help in two ways. Firstly, it can help you to overcome social anxiety as you are taking the power out of your thoughts by sharing them. Secondly, another person's perspective can be very helpful in separating the truth from the false.
Also, picking up the phone and speaking to someone you trust is a social act in itself. Congratulate yourself for doing this!
3. Tweak your lifestyle
It may be that something in your diet or lifestyle is contributing to your anxiety in social situations. For example drinking too much caffeine and suffering a lack of sleep can both be contributing factors. Not dealing with pressing matters can also trigger anxious thought patterns.
Adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle can help massively in overcoming social anxiety. Exercise and meditation can both be extremely beneficial in calming and overactive mind, reducing stress and increasing natural feel good chemicals in the brain.
There is a wealth of guidance on different meditations on our site. You can also find effective ways of increasing your wellbeing naturally here. Sometimes it is the simplest changes that have the biggest impact.
4. Focus on others
Social anxiety is often triggered by having a hyper-awareness of oneself. To the point that you continually worry that every word you speak and action you take is somehow being judged.
Try to remember that no one is perfect and no one expects perfection. Focusing on others, remaining mindfully present, and really listening to what they have to say will help to take you out of your own mind. You don't have to have an answer for everything. No one expects you too. Sometimes it is helpful just to listen and acknowledge.
5. Be kind to yourself
Ever notice how your negative inner dialogue increases before and after a social event?How you speak to yourself matters. Showing yourself the same kindness and compassion you would show someone else can take a conscious effort. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
Remind yourself daily that you are worthy and that you are enough. List your qualities and what you feel gratitude for in your journal, even if it is for the smallest of things. Positivity, much like negativity is very infectious. The more positive thoughts you can create, the better you will feel in yourself. You may even start to truly believe in yourself
6. Use visualisation
Visualise yourself slotting into a social event seamlessly, with confidence and without anxiety. Visualisation is a powerful technique that helps to manifest positive thoughts and feelings and it reduces anxiety.
See yourself making that phone call you've been putting off, or seeing a friend. Visualise it all going well. Think how you would feel after. Visualise yourself feeling calmer and more satisfied. Reward yourself with good words and compliments for having faced your fears.
Try positive visualisation, try it repeatedly, whenever you feel anxious about an up-and-coming social interaction.
If you start to feel anxious take a few deep breaths. Breathing in slowly and deeply through the nose, holding it for a few seconds and then releasing the breath slowly out through the mouth. Following this, return back to your positive visualisation.
7. Try tapping therapy
Tapping therapy, also known as EFT, can be a fantastic tool for calming an overanxious body and mind. Moreover, it can be practised anywhere. You can find out more about the benefits of tapping in overcoming social anxiety by reading our article.
Tapping has proven to reduce stress levels substantially. It is a non-invasive practice you can apply to everyday life and situations once you have learned how.
EFT helps to recalibrate and soothe the brain, bringing you back into the present moment.
Overcoming social anxiety takes time and patience
The above techniques take time, patience and consistency. They also take a conscious effort. Expose yourself gradually to social situations and be kind to yourself along the way.
If you find yourself unable to sustain any of these practices or find that they are not helping, then it may be time to see a counsellor. Anxiety is triggered by thoughts and associations. Therefore, it is helpful to find and heal the root causes.
Qualified therapists can help to challenge and change unhelpful thought patterns. They will also recognise if and when there is a need for medication.
Here at Recoverlution, we place a great emphasis on a healthy connection with others. Our platform is here to help you get started in exploring new things socially. There is an abundance of holistic wellness practices within our Wellness hub and Knowledge hub. All of which can be explored from the safety of your own home. Know that by joining us at Recoverlution, you need never feel alone in your predicament.
- NHS Social anxiety: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/social-anxiety/
- Anxiety as a Predictor of Age at First Use of Substances and Progression to Substance Use Problems Among Boys - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10802-009-9360-y
- Journaling to cope with anxiety - https://www.verywellmind.com/journaling-a-great-tool-for-coping-with-anxiety-3144672
- Overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder One Step at a Time - https://www.thetappingsolution.com/eft-articles/overcoming-social-anxiety-disorder-one-step-at-a-time/