Dealing with social anxiety can impact a person’s ability to make meaningful connections to others. Social anxiety is a unique type of anxiety that some people feel when they are in social situations or even just anticipating a social event. While many people in recovery from addiction might experience a degree of loneliness if they are not seeking supportive peers, those with social anxiety can struggle to even get into a group meeting or speak in front of others.
Social Anxiety Versus Introversion
Social anxiety might be confused with introversion. Some people may believe that they have social anxiety, which might not be the case. Introversion is a term used to define a personality trait. Introverted people do not necessarily feel anxious about social situations; they generally prefer more time to themselves and less stimulating environments. Introverts have some of the following defining traits:
- Feel comfortable being alone
- Enjoying time for self-reflection
- Taking time to think through decisions
- Preferring not to work in a group
- Enjoying their “inner world”
- Feeling tired or drained after spending time among a large crowd
- Needing time alone or in a quiet space to “recharge”
While some introverts may have similar behaviors to those with social anxiety, as they might also avoid crowds and spend time in isolation, they do not feel distressed about their choices. Introverts are living by their preference based on their temperament. They are not avoiding crowds or retreating out of fear. Instead, they simply find that they do not like crowds and prefer smaller social circles.
However, with social anxiety, a person might want to be out among others yet experience a debilitating fear that limits their quality of life. An introvert might not like giving a speech or going to a concert, yet they do not have an irrational fear causing avoidance of these events. An introvert can spend time alone without necessarily feeling isolated or disconnected. Social anxiety can create isolation when people want to find connections yet cannot due to crippling fear.
The following are some of defining traits of social anxiety:
- Fear that others are judging them whenever they are out
- Feeling self-conscious, awkward, or embarrassed around others
- Sweating, feeling nauseous, or rapid heartbeat while among others
- Difficulty speaking to other people, like feeling dry mouth or trouble speaking at more than a whisper
- Going to great lengths to avoid others
Social Anxiety and Isolation
When in recovery, we know that support groups can be beneficial for success. Support and belonging to a community can have tremendous benefits like:
- Holding us accountable for our actions and commitment to recovery
- Experiencing a sense of camaraderie
- Helping others by sharing our stories
- Learning coping skills and strategies from our peers
How Can We Overcome Our Social Anxiety and Connect to Our Recovery Community?
Much like any underlying mental health issue, social anxiety can be treated. Most anxiety disorders are treated with a combination of talk-therapies and some form of exposure or real-life experiences to help us conquer our fears. If you are struggling with social anxiety while in recovery, you can take small steps to get yourself the help and support you need. Try some of the following:
- Take advantage of telehealth, video chats, or online recovery forums
- Many therapists can offer sessions online or over the phone if going to a therapist’s office is difficult for you.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical centers and facilities made this accommodation for safety reasons. You might have some experience with this form of therapy right now.
- Use apps with recovery tips, reminders, and daily check-ins
- Like AA and NA, many support groups now have phone apps that help you stay connected to your recovery goals.
- Some of these apps can connect you to others in recovery within the app.
- These apps can help you focus on your recovery while treating your social anxiety so that you do not fall behind.
- Invite a friend or family member to accompany you during support meetings
- Sometimes, when struggling with social anxiety, having a familiar person accompanying us when we go out can be helpful.
- Another person can offer support or take some of the pressure off of us during meetings.
- Remember to check that the meeting is open to guests and supportive individuals, as some sessions are “closed” to those not in recovery.
Social anxiety can be addressed with a progressive approach by steadily increasing your comfort level in social situations. You can use other means of connecting, like phone, video chat, or other means that can keep you in the recovery community as you work through your social anxiety. Be sure to continue to move forward and grow! Social anxiety is treatable and does not need to hold you back from living your life!
Social anxiety is a treatable condition that creates a debilitating sense of fear of social situations. A person with this anxiety disorder might feel distressed when anticipating or engaged in social events. These symptoms can manifest in physical ways, making the person feel even more overwhelmed by the situation. For someone in recovery, social anxiety can prevent them from seeking support in groups that can prevent them from experiencing isolation in their recovery. If you believe that you have social anxiety that is keeping you from seeking support in recovery, remember that your condition can be treated with help from professionals. When clients leave treatment, they might fear the unfamiliar when seeking support outside of their treatment program. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center reminds our alumni that we are here for you as members of our “Bear Tribe.” If you need help finding support after treatment, call us at (303) 443-3343. Remember that “we’ve got your back!”