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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 493
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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Hi, I drink almost every weekend and feel really socially awkward and I feel like if I don

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Hi, I drink almost every weekend and feel really socially awkward and I feel like if I don't drink any alcohol I won't be able to carry a conversation with people. I feel I need to drink alcohol because if I do I would have an easier time with myself and I won't hold myself back from approaching new people.I want to be able to go out and not drink alcohol and be able to talk to people freely. Anything I can do to help my social life?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 1 year ago.
Hi there,

I'm Alicia. Thanks for your question, I'm happy to help you today.

Social anxiety is actually a very common reason that a lot of people drink - it is a social lubricant and it does make it easier to approach and talk to others because it eases feelings of anxiety and reduces tension. Actually, around 20% of people with social anxiety drink for these reasons. So, you're not alone - but you don't have to suffer with these feelings, either - and you don't have to drink just to be able to cope with social anxiety.

There are a few things I would suggest that might help you. There are certain medications that have been shown to help social anxiety - SSRIs - which are also used as antidepressants - used on a long-term basis, and other medications like beta blockers - which are used on the short-term to help you cope at the moment (i.e. right before you go to a party or have to give a public performance.) You might find this information from the Mayo Clinic to be helpful, as it discusses the different medical treatments that can help social anxiety:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/social-anxiety-disorder/ds00595/dsection=treatments-and-drugs

Psychotherapy is also a common method for treating social anxiety - it can help by uncovering the subconscious reasons you feel fearful around others, and help you develop more realistic thought patterns and coping mechanisms. Some people are naturally shy or more introverted, of course, but that doesn't mean you have to feel anxious or nervous in social settings - therapy, and specifically, a type of therapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help. If you are interested, you can read more about this type of treatment, as well as find a counselor in your area, on this website:
http://nacbt.org/searchfortherapists.asp

A good book to get: The Shyness and Social Phobia Workbook:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Shyness-Social-Anxiety-Workbook/dp/1572242167

It has a lot of self-help tips and techniques you can use to help yourself - and this is particularly useful if you don't want to see a therapist.

There are also other self-help and holistic techniques that some people find helpful, such as meditation and other stress relief techniques, exercise, which helps to release too much adrenaline and cortisol - stress hormones that can make you feel more nervous, some people use natural remedies like Kava kava or Valerian, and some people use biofeedback, a type of treatment that teaches you to control your bodily responses to anxiety.
If you'd like to learn more about biofeedback, you can read more here:
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/biofeedback-000349.htm

Just practicing positive self-talk and trying not to catastrophize prior to a social event can also help, too. So, trying not to imagine the worst, realizing that people aren't out to judge you or criticize you, can be beneficial.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions. Best wishes.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for you're answer Alicia!

I can't exactly take medications or want to because I feel like my problem isn't at that level. I can't afford a therapist so I'll probably end up buying the book, thank you!


Also you advised on some stress relief techniques, I had a question on that. I hardly have anything stressful at the moment because school is over for the summer and yet I still get extremely nervous just thinking about going out into a social environment which should be fun and stress free. Even if I go out with a positive mind set, I still get the crippling feeling of not being able to socialize or even have fun. How is stress affecting my social life?
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 1 year ago.
You're welcome :)

Medication is definitely not always necessary - and if you can handle your anxiety levels through a different technique or method, then I am much more in favor of that. Medication is something to keep in mind "just in case" - but I am glad to hear that you are willing to work on this problem on your own. A lot of my patients have found that book very helpful so I do highly recommend that as well.

But to answer your question, stress doesn't necessarily have to come from an obvious source (like school or work) - it can also come from inside. So for you, at least as far as I can gauge it here, your stress levels are being caused by socialization. It's not uncommon - for some people, especially people who are very sensitive to external stimuli or crowds, socialization is its own form of stress. Even though you might think socialization should be fun - sometimes, your own internal mindset can "create" problems that aren't even there, and cause you to feel like avoiding social contact, instead of engaging in it.

Sometimes, the best way to deal with this (or any fear) is to simply face it head on. Practicing relaxation techniques before an "event" - visualizing things going well, and so forth - can help you before you go out in public or to a party or even to meet friends. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The thing to try "not" to do is to avoid social gatherings. It's okay to skip out once in a while, but if you avoid socialization too much, then you only reinforce your own fears, and it can get harder and harder as time goes by.

I wish you lots of luck, and again, please let me know if you have any more questions.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Now that I think about, it's been on my mind since I read your answer, that I am really stressed out. I don't know how or why exactly but I think that's really the case. I would sometimes get asked randomly why I look so timid, angry or nervous and I always replied confused saying "I'm fine" when deep down I knew I wasn't. The last thing I want to do is avoid socializing and especially avoid this problem. I've tried facing it head on but have failed most of the time. My biggest problem would be not knowing what to say or do when approaching someone or even being approached by someone. I'm not able to say or do anything interesting enough to keep the conversation going or have people be interested in what I have to say. So I just stand there and think of what I could have said to have made things better. I will definitely work on my stress and try out all the techniques you mentioned.

Thank you so much again for the help! Just one last thing, will I be able to send you a message in the future with a question or just to let you know that all you're answers worked and just thank you again?
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 1 year ago.
Just a quick reply to what you said here - people do subconsciously pick up on the way you're feeling, even if you're not coming out and saying anything directly. So, for example, you might walk into a social situation feeling complete and utter dread - even if you're trying to smile and be positive. Part of breaking this pattern is just re-training yourself to think more "rationally" - because you say, for example, that you don't know what to say or do or how to approach someone. And I think you worry about it so much that you stress yourself out before anything even happens. Instead of, say, trying to go with the flow and realizing other people are probably nervous (to an extent), too - and that by listening to others and asking questions about them (for example) you can connect with them without having to feel like you have to be brilliant or have funny or witty things to say. (But the book talks about a lot of these tips too!) And just remember that people aren't as critical as you might think (some are, but most aren't). Most people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don't even notice the little things you might be worried about.
Good luck! Let me know how it all goes, and you can definitely send me a message in the future just by posting in this thread :)
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 493
Experience: Specializing in mental health counseling
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