Social Anxiety Disorder and Addiction: The Link and Breaking The Cycle

Having social connections is a healthy and necessary part of the human experience, but for those dealing with a social anxiety disorder (SAD), something as common as a birthday party can trigger intense feelings of anxiety as well as fear of humiliation or rejection. Individuals with SAD often say or think things like, “I feel like I don’t fit in with other people,” or “I feel paralyzed by the fear that others notice my anxiety.” 

Those with the disorder struggle with interpersonal relationships and this profoundly affects their ability to function in social environments such as school, work, special events, and even everyday interactions. Research suggests that about 7 percent of Americans are affected by SAD and without treatment, the disorder can last for many years or a lifetime and prevent a person from reaching his or her full potential. (The National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH).

Signs and Symptoms

According to NIMH, common signs and physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder often include:

SAD and Addiction – The Connection

The causes of social anxiety disorder have been linked to psychological, biological, and environmental factors. However, most researchers agree that fear of failure and embarrassment are usually at the core of this disorder, and these fears trigger intense feelings of crippling anxiety. To cope with these emotions, people suffering from SAD often turn to alcohol or drugs to interact with those around them.

This type of self-medicating can seem to work well at first, but eventually, this behavior only masks the symptoms and eventually turns into a vicious cycle of dependence – causing co-occurring disorders. According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have an alcohol or other substance use disorder, and about 20 percent of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder. The vicious circle of SAD and substance use can seem overwhelming, but the cycle can be broken.

Addiction, SAD and Breaking The Cycle

Attending a specialized drug treatment program can help those living with co-occurring disorders. Social anxiety disorder and addiction need to be treated in tandem to reach sobriety successfully. When treated for only addiction, those with a co-occurring disorder like SAD are likely to drop out of treatment programs early or experience a relapse. If you or someone you love is suffering from SAD and addiction, there is hope, and it all begins with a proper diagnosis, an effective treatment plan, and integrated therapies.


Recovery is a lifelong process of growth and self-discovery. And for those with co-occurring disorders, ongoing therapeutic support and specialized treatment may be needed. If you or someone you love is dealing with a dual diagnosis and is ready to start down the path to sobriety, Daylight Recovery is here to help. Have a question, or need more information? Contact Daylight Recovery Services today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.