Anxiety disorders are common co-occurring conditions with addiction because people who suffer from them desperately want relief from their symptoms, which sometimes include intense panic attacks. Often, people who suffer from anxiety disorders will be prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax that relieve anxiety in the short term, but are highly addictive. They may also self-medicate with alcohol or marijuana. This is especially true of people with social anxiety disorder. Alcohol, especially, is a convenient way to take the edge off of social situations that might cause intense anxiety. Unfortunately, depending on alcohol or other drugs to relax in social situations can lead to addiction. Here are some healthier ways to cope with social anxiety disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT is one of the most effective ways to deal with social anxiety. There are mainly two aspects to the CBT approach: exposure and identifying irrational assumptions. In exposure, you gradually put yourself in social situations that make you slightly uncomfortable, but not anxious. As you do this, and maybe make a few mistakes, you learn there’s really nothing to fear. The cognitive aspect involves examining your assumptions about social situations. People with social anxiety disorder often feel like everyone is judging them, that they have to behave perfectly, or making a social mistake would be catastrophic. None of these are true. By exposing and challenging these assumptions, you can reduce your social anxiety.

Focus on others

One reason people feel socially anxious is that they are intensely self-conscious. They wonder if they’re saying and doing the right things or if people like them. One way to reduce these kinds of worries is to focus on others. Consider the possibility that someone else might be socially anxious too. Try to learn something new from everyone you talk to. If nothing else, play little games to keep your attention externally focused, such as noting people’s eye color.

Breathe deeply

When you feel the symptoms of anxiety coming on, practice taking some slow breaths. Count four in, four out, pause, and repeat. Do this five or ten times and even if your anxiety doesn’t go away completely, it will be reduced.


The more familiar a situation is, the less threatening it becomes. All of the above strategies will help, but the more you practice them, the better they work. Think of even small social interactions as opportunities to practice managing your anxiety.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or anxiety, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.