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College Students Use Alcohol as Way of Coping with Social Anxiety - Articles Surfing
It's no secret that alcohol use is alive and well on college campuses across America. New research studies investigate a largely unexplored area -- the relationship between heavy drinking and social anxiety.
According to a recent report by the National Institute of Health (NIH), anxiety is a psychological risk factor associated with heavy or problem drinking among college students.
Along with anxiety and other psychological factors, the NIH report suggests that an impulsive personality and a family history of alcohol abuse may be additional risk factors for problem drinking.
People with social anxiety, students and non-students alike, can benefit from these findings by taking action to eliminate risk factors for problem drinking and address their anxiety.
Social anxiety is the most common type of anxiety disorder and it affects 15% of Americans. Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is diagnosed as overwhelming anxiety, fear, and self-consciousness in everyday social situations.
It triggers a host of physical symptoms, anxious thoughts, and avoidance behaviors.
People that suffer from social anxiety disorder usually realize that their fears are unfounded or extreme, but still feel unable to control their fears that others are looking at or judging them.
What You Can Do
Ask yourself why you drink. Do you drink to relax, to relieve stress, or to help alleviate social fears and anxieties? If any of these reasons describe you, you may be using alcohol in a vain attempt to cope with the root cause -- social anxiety.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol may mask the problem for a few brief hours. However, once the mask comes off you are faced with yourself, and your anxiety returns stronger than ever.
In fact, problem drinking hinders you from making positive strides forward in healing because instead of one problem to overcome, you now have two problems, social anxiety AND alcohol abuse.
Here are several ways you can empower yourself to address the root causes of social anxiety, instead of masking the problem with heavy drinking.
-- Build a social support system. Many people rely on drinking for social support. Instead of using drinking to connect with others, seek social support outside of the drinking environment. This is easier said than done, I know. After all, the social anxiety is what hinders these types of connections in the first place.
Remember, baby steps can move mountains over time. Start with safe people like a trusted family member, a best friend, counselor, or pastor, and build from there.
Some colleges offer group therapy for people with social anxiety, which gives you an opportunity to learn how to overcome your fears in a safe environment with people who understand what you're going through.
-- Change your expectations about what alcohol can do for your stress level. National Institute of Health research indicates that when a person EXPECTS that alcohol will relax them or loosen their social inhibitions, it leads to increased drinking.
Problem drinkers tend to believe that drinking alcohol will reduce stress and relax them. In fact, there is much debate as to whether this assumption is actually true.
While some studies suggest that low levels of alcohol temporarily reduce the stress response (also known as the fight or flight response), other studies now indicate that alcohol actually INDUCES the stress response.
Much research demonstrates that alcohol actually triggers the fight or flight response by stimulating the release of stress hormones such as corticosterone and adrenaline. In other words, large amounts of alcohol can actually CREATE many of the symptoms that you're trying to avoid!
-- Practice wise drinking habits. If you find it difficult to stop once you start drinking, or have a difficult time drinking responsibly, skip the alcohol altogether (at least until you learn how to engage in healthy drinking behaviors). As the saying goes: "If in doubt, go without."
If you do decide to drink, alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks, and do not drink on an empty stomach. Foods high in protein or fat will slow the absorption of the alcohol.
Note: If you think you have a drinking problem and you want help, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a wonderful resource. AA groups have helped millions transform their lives, and meetings are available in most communities.
-- Increase your sense of control over social anxiety by learning anxiety reduction techniques. Nutritional strategies for reducing anxiety, deep breathing, guided imagery, and cognitive-behavioral strategies are just a few examples of anxiety reduction techniques that are included in our Conquer Anxiety Success Program.
Anxiety reduction techniques can be highly effective tools in helping you to conquer anxiety. For example, NIH findings indicate that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be as effective as medication in treating anxiety, and even more effective than medication at preventing long-term recurrence of anxiety.
The coping skills that anxiety reduction strategies give you empower you to bring your anxiety down to a healthy level. These skills also increase your sense of control so that you don't need alcohol to successfully handle social situations.
Remember, you are not alone, and you CAN feel better. :)
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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