Social anxiety is an extreme fear of being judged or evaluated by others, which can affect a person’s ability to go to school, get a job or have personal relationships. Approximately 15 million people in the U.S. have social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social anxiety also has a strong link to substance use disorders, as some sufferers may begin turning to drugs or alcohol to make themselves more comfortable in certain social situations.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Common symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Intense fear of humiliating yourself in social situations
  • Worry that others will judge you
  • Stress about an event for weeks before it occurs
  • Nausea prior to social events or meeting new people
  • Avoiding places or activities that make you uncomfortable
  • Physical symptoms like blushing, sweating or shaking
  • Analyzing your behavior and flaws after interactions

More than one-third of people with symptoms of social anxiety disorder wait up to 10 years before seeking treatment for their condition. Unfortunately, some may run the risk of developing a substance use disorder during this time as well, since substance use is often used to “self-medicate” the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Fortunately, there are effective treatments for social anxiety disorder, which include:


Antidepressant medications used to treat depression can also be very effective in treating social anxiety disorder. Some patients may need to try more than one antidepressant before finding the one that works the best for them. Anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed for this disorder to reduce levels of anxiety associated with social situations.


Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, can be very effective in treating social anxiety disorder. This therapy focuses on identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with healthy ones in order to overcome frightening social situations. Skills training and therapy that utilizes role playing can also be helpful for those suffering with social anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety and Substance Abuse

Around 20 percent of people with an anxiety disorder like social anxiety also struggle with a substance use disorder. Unfortunately the disorders can create a vicious cycle, making each one worse until the person requires professional treatment to overcome them both. Residential treatment is often recommended for this problem, although some patients also respond well to quality outpatient treatment programs. Social anxiety and substance use disorders have a high correlation, but the good news is help is available. To learn more about social anxiety disorder or how it relates to substance abuse, contact Treatment Now.