Social Anxiety & Substance Use 

| Amy Nussman, LCSWA

Day in and day out we are exposed to stressors and outside stimuli. Sometimes we are able to move through our day and feel little to no impact, while other times these stimuli and stressors cause us extreme discomfort. 

We all have a certain capacity of exposure to stressors that we can handle before our threshold is exceeded. Once this happens, we rely on coping mechanisms that serve an important role in easing our discomfort. 

Social anxiety can increase the discomfort that we feel in certain environments and can make navigating the world around us feel really overwhelming. In some cases, individuals who experience social anxiety will turn to substances as a way to ease the discomfort they feel being in a particular environment. Although this coping mechanism may not be the most sustainable, it is important to recognize that the substance is serving a function. 

Some helpful questions to explore functionality of the substance may be:

“How do I feel in this environment with or without the substance?”

“What feeling am I trying to achieve or avoid?”

“Why is it important for me to achieve or avoid this feeling?”

Diving into these questions with a therapist is a great way to start navigating the development of healthy coping skills and easing the discomfort of social anxiety.

Today's the day to make a change.