Archive for August 2nd, 2011

August 2, 2011

New Study Shows Social Anxiety Comorbidity with Substance Use Disorder

by Dave P.

Self-medication of anxiety symptoms with alcohol, other drugs, or both has been a plausible mechanism for the co-occurrence of anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. However, owing to the cross-sectional nature of previous studies, it has remained unknown whether self-medication of anxiety symptoms is a risk factor for the development of incident substance use disorder or is a correlate of substance use.

Self-medication in anxiety disorders confers substantial risk of incident substance use disorders. Conversely, self-medication in substance use disorders is associated with incident social phobia. These results not only clarify several pathways that may lead to the development of comorbidity but also indicate at-risk populations and suggest potential points of intervention in the treatment of comorbidity.


Many people who suffer from social anxiety are reluctant to see a doctor about their problems for several reasons. There is still a stigma associated with therapy – especially among males. There may be a financial deterrent if the person doesn’t have insurance or if their insurance doesn’t cover mental health problems. Or they might not know there is a name for their problem.

In any case, the person suffering from social anxiety may turn to alcohol or drugs for relief. With substance use, they may find companionship with others who also drink a lot or do drugs. Alcohol and opiates stimulate the release of endorphins in the brain, which kills some of the pain of loneliness that is widely associated with social anxiety disorder. Other drugs, such as methamphetamine, can make a person more sociable. “Speed” floods the brain with dopamine, which makes it highly addictive.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be effective in treating SAD, but young people, especially, turn to alcohol and drug abuse for self-medication.

We’ll be talking about loneliness as it relates to social anxiety disorder in our next meeting and how we can use CBT to help us develop more close and meaningful relationships.