Building Better Social Skills in Sobriety

Building Better Social Skills in Sobriety

There are many reasons why someone might use alcohol or drugs to excess. Trauma, adverse childhood experiences, grief, and other catalysts are just a few of the underlying factors that come to light during addiction rehabilitation treatment. But sometimes, people use substances to cope with social anxiety and often have trouble building better social skills in sobriety. Fortunately, there are many methods to feel more comfortable. 

Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety, formerly known as social phobia, is a psychological condition characterized by intense fear or apprehension in situations where the individual feels they may be scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed by others. It often stems from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological influences. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) indicates that “risk for social anxiety disorder may run in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety and that genetics influences how these areas function.” 

The NHS also reports that “It’s a common problem that usually starts during the teenage years. It can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. For some people it gets better as they get older. But for many people it does not go away on its own without treatment.”

Here’s what a lot of people experience with social anxiety:

  • Physical symptoms. These might include sweating, trembling, blushing, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and difficulty speaking.
  • Poor self-perception. This develops into low self-esteem and a perception of being inadequate, unattractive, or socially inept, which further fuels negative self-talk and anxiety. NHS states that this is one of the primary reasons why people develop “unhealthful habits as a way of coping.”
  • Interpersonal difficulties. Social anxiety may present problems for people as they try to form and maintain relationships, both romantic and platonic, due to avoidance behaviors and fear of rejection.
  • Interference with daily function. This includes creating more challenges with work performance, academic ability, using public restrooms, meeting different people, and other aspects relating to quality of life. For some individuals, their social anxiety can actually be rather debilitating. 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that “although young adults with social anxiety may engage in alcohol use to experience what they may perceive as positive effects, they may also be more vulnerable to negative social and other consequences as a result of their substance use, which in turn can lead to more alcohol use to cope with stress.”

Social anxiety is the third most common mental health condition reported, following addiction and depression. What’s more, social anxiety is often a co-occurring disorder. Many people who suffer with substance use disorder (SUD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), depression, bipolar disorder, and even other types of anxiety have social phobias as well. 

Building Better Social Skills in Sobriety 

As you can see, social anxiety involves far more than simply being shy or having a more introverted personality. And while you may always feel a little apprehensive in certain situations, this doesn’t mean you can’t develop strong relationships and enjoy social activities in sobriety. Develop more awareness about what circumstances or situations might have contributed to your social anxiety in the past, and take small but deliberate steps toward positive change.

Seek Out Proper Treatment 

NIMH suggests starting with “a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker.” This approach helps you get a more accurate diagnosis and gives you an opportunity to recognize the warning signs and discuss which therapeutic options might be good for you, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and potentially medication to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. 

Speak Up to People You Trust 

Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to open up and ask for help, even from family members, loved ones, friends, and trusted co-workers. But you might be surprised as to what the people in your life understand and how they’re willing to support you, especially if they know you’re trying to create a better life in recovery. 

Choose Specific Types of Gatherings

Maybe you’d feel more comfortable in 12-Step meetings with fewer people in attendance. Or perhaps you’d like your primary outings to focus on specific interests, such as:

  • A book club
  • Exercising with friends
  • A regular group dinner date at a new restaurant
  • A particular hobby gathering
  • Other environments where you feel the most comfortable 

Recognizing you have the power of choice and knowing what scenarios might trigger social anxiety often provides a more secure outlook on how to proceed. Over time, you’ll gain more confidence in your sobriety and can explore other possibilities. 

Call Willingway Today

Discovering the actual causes for addiction is just as important as treatment, but all too often, we don’t know where they stem from or how to address them. At  Georgia and Florida addiction rehabilitation locations, our board-certified medical and clinical team offers a comprehensive program approach—refined over the past 50 years with thousands of people just like you—that combines evidence-based methods and whole-person care, including identifying depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, mood disorders, and other general emotional problems. Call our admissions department today to learn how we can help you build a better life in sobriety.