Saturday, October 17, 2015

Why Are So Many Recovering Addicts Suffering From Social Anxiety?

Is it Introversion Or Are We Suffering From Social Anxiety?

Introvert Recovering Addict

I think being an introvert makes it even harder to figure out if I suffer from social anxiety, especially if it isn't severe. Since being in recovery, I've had a hard time committing to social gatherings and I avoid talking on the phone like my life depends on it. However, I still enjoy hanging out with a few friends once in a while.


I know for sure I'm an introvert. Just like an introvert I tend to avoid socializing with large groups of people because I find them draining. We also like to hang out in small groups of friends, but they rather spend time alone. We enjoy solitude and are energized by it. We're also very self-aware and spend a lot of time reflecting on our thoughts which usually makes us very observant and empathetic. 

According to Psychology Today introverts are frequently mistaken as being shy, having a social phobia or even an avoidant personality disorder. However, many introverts socialize easily they just strongly prefer not to. 

Social Anxiety:

I've recently started wondering if maybe I don't suffer from social anxiety, which is the fear of interacting with people. It causes us to feel self-conscious and feel like we are being negatively judged which leads us to avoid social gatherings. 

People with social anxiety usually experience significant emotional distress in social encounters, especially with strangers and people of authority. We also experience distress when we're being teased or criticized, as well as when we're being observed. I think it goes without saying public speaking is a nightmare.

The Difference:

According to this definition, I probably have social anxiety, but do I really? I'm never quite sure if its social anxiety or just a severe case of introversion. I don't necessarily fear social encounters they're more just stressful and very draining. 

In general, the difference between the two is that introverts still enjoy spending time with friends while someone with social anxiety will fear it. The confusing part is that both these statements aren't always true. An introvert can sometimes dread hanging out with friends while someone who suffers from social anxiety can sometimes enjoy hanging out with a friend.

Social Anxiety in Recovering Addicts

Social Anxiety Test:

In the hopes of putting an end to all this confusion, I took a social anxiety test. I know they aren't 100% accurate, but I scored pretty high on the test so I imagine there's probably something going on with me. I'm not sure what it is because I don't mind a crowded mall but I feel awkward and uncomfortable in big groups of people I know. 

When I'm in a big group of family or friends it drains my energy completely. Like in requires an enormous amount of effort just to socialize. It's very stressful because I'm expected to socialize with all of them. It's even worst when I'm expected to socialize with some important stranger, which for some reason doesn't include cashiers.

I've had plenty of opportunities to make friends, but since I've been in recovery I just feel uncomfortable committing that much energy to socializing. If only you knew how draining it was for me. It’s frustrating because a part of me wants to hang out with friends. However I don't avoid it simply because of how demanding it is on me, I also fear being put in an awkward position. I don't feel like a lot of people understand me. It's a lot of work being someone that I'm not. 

If it's not my fear of being embarrassed, it’s my need to be alone that keeps me from hanging out with friends. Not to mention when I'm in a relationship I'm even less motivated to get over my anxiety and interact with other people. Funny thing is once I'm out with a small group of friends I usually enjoy myself (1 friend is ideal and  3 is pushing the limit).

Social Anxiety in Recovering AddictsFor the longest time, I didn't understand why I couldn't commit to hanging out with friends. Before I got addicted to drugs, I remember being uncomfortable in some social situations but I still made friends easily and was even popular. Now people think I just don't care or that I don't like them.

I don't know how to explain to them what's really going on and even if I could explain it I don't know if I'd want to. I'm embarrassed and because my anxiety and need to avoid social situations varies all the time I might look like I'm lying.

As a former addict, I was often selfish and lied to try and explain my erratic behavior. Now after working so hard to change my life around the last thing I want is people to think I'm lying or that I'm being selfish. I recently discovered that many recovering addicts feel the same way and I started wondering if maybe addiction was affecting the way we perceive social situations.

Possible Reasons For Social Anxiety:

I thought maybe the high number of recovering addicts dealing with social anxiety could be due to:

1. The low self-esteem due to being an addict and the stigma that comes with it.

2. We avoided social situations for so long while in early recovery that our lack of practice has created a fear of them. 

3. We're so unfamiliar with socializing that we feel socially awkward. Being creatures of habit, the unfamiliar can be frightening. 

4. A traumatic experience we suffered during our addiction.

5. We always had social anxiety, but never noticed it because the drugs gave us a confidence boost. 

Being in recovery means we're suddenly hyper aware of ourselves and we need to relearn how to socialize without our drug of choice as a safety blanket. Thankfully there are some tips and tricks to help with social anxiety which I'll be posting this Sunday so stay tuned for that. You can subscribe here to get an email notification when that post comes out.

Have a great week and in case you didn't know I'm giving away a 10$ Amazon gift card to a lucky subscriber. The draw will be done on Halloween. 

PS. Please let me know in the comments if you've ever been through something similar.  It would be nice to know I'm not crazy or a bad person.

Yours truly, 
Chelsie Charmed