Why so many newly sober people suffer from social anxiety, and what can be done about it.
Anxiety can be defined as feelings of worry, discomfort, or nervousness that mostly occur in places or situations that are unfamiliar or uncertain (although they can occur in familiar places as well). Pretty much every human being has experienced anxiety at some point in their lives. It can develop into a bigger problem when the anxiety is recurring, tied to specific things or places, and it begins to interfere with normal day to day life and general well being.
Anxiety is then a physical and mental disorder. Anxiety disorder is extremely common today, affecting millions of Americans.
Studies have proven that anxiety and addiction are linked. If you talk to any addict, you'll find out that they most likely suffer from some sort of anxiety, be it general anxiety, OCD, or a phobia. Social anxiety is very common among newly sober people, because many of them abused drugs or alcohol in order in the first place to deal with an existing social anxiety.
Instead of dealing with the disorder in a healthy way, they turned to drugs or alcohol to numb out their feelings. When someone gets sober, they often find that their old social anxiety resurfaces and combined with a whole new lifestyle, creates a very big challenge.
Social anxiety is an especially debilitating disorder in that it makes day to day activities extremely difficult. It can also severely affect the quality of a person's relationships, friendships, career, and general sense of well being.
The effects of anxiety often lead to depression, that only worsens when left untreated. It's important to get help for anxiety before the disorder causes your life to spiral out of control.
Those who are newly sober often find themselves feeling very alone and isolated. Because getting sober will often involve distancing yourself from old friends and places like bars and clubs, it can easy to find yourself feeling lonely and lost.
The prospect of starting over again with making new friends, finding new social activities, and just having to interact with others totally sober can be overwhelming. This can create social anxiety or intensify symptoms of a social anxiety that already existed.
The good news is that there is help out there, especially for a person in recovery. One way newly sober people work on practicing their social skills is by joining and participating in a support group.
This can be a 12 step group or other group where others gather to talk about their experiences in recovery. Being around others going through the same experience can really help.
You'll find yourself naturally making a connections with others over time until it feels natural. Volunteering, going back to school, group exercise or sports, or spending more time on hobbies are other ways to relieve anxiety and begin making new and healthy connections with other like minded people. The best part is that you'll be doing it sober.
Other ways to treat anxiety include medication, therapy, and relaxation techniques. Many people who suffer from anxiety say that learning mindfulness meditation has really helped.
Because the anxiety will be part of your life for good, it's important to learn healthy ways to cope with it. Meditation helps you to relax the body with attention to the breathe and cope with anxiety by increasing awareness of the thoughts that trigger it.
The important thing is to find healthy ways to cope with anxiety, so that you don't ever have to rely on drugs or alcohol to fulfill that purpose.