Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) And Addiction

January 23, 2020

Some addicts do not isolate on purpose. Some actually have an underlying disorder that predisposes them to isolation. Social anxiety disorder or SAD is a grim reality for some addicts. With addiction, it is considered a dual diagnosis. For more on other dual diagnoses, such as anxiety and addiction, click here.

Social anxiety is more than just shyness.  It is an actual mental disorder whereby the sufferer will exhibit noticeable symptoms. These range from an immense fear around other people, which manifests in an inability to socialise. It may manifest in different ways, from not eating with others; to avoiding all forms of social contact. Generally, its onset occurs around the early teens, such as 13 years old. Mostly due to the fear of being judged when around others in a social setting. It's an example of how developmental trauma can affect growth. For more on trauma, read "Trauma as cause for addiction."Yet, (SAD) can be treated. However, most people only reach out for treatment when it has interfered with daily life. Some have lived with this illness for decades before reaching for help. For others, it has been an underlying cause of other illnesses, such as addiction. Though, without treating the addiction, addicts will find it very difficult to recover from SAD.

What are the symptoms of SAD? 

There are physiological and psychological symptoms that present itself to the sufferer. On a physical level, SAD sufferers will experience palpitations, sweaty palms, and blushes. While, psychologically, they will experience the beliefs of not being a worthy person in the eyes of the world. Or panic upon entering a social situation due to the buildup of negative thoughts.

The following is a list of symptoms one can expect from SAD: 

Besides blushes, palpitations, and sweaty palms, they may feel their “mind going blank”.  

Sufferers will also feel nauseous or sick to their stomach in social situations. 

They will show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice. 

SADs find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know. And, they have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could. 

SADs are very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward. They are very afraid that other people will judge them. Hence, they will stay away from places where there are other people.  

When do the symptoms of SAD manifest? 

SAD symptoms manifests in every social setting. But, it varies from individual to individual. For some, it may be that they are alright with chatting among close friends, but scared of parties. While, for others, it may be as severe as avoiding all forms of social contact whatsoever. Whichever it is, below is a list of difficulties faced by the SAD sufferer: 

1) Public speaking - SADs will agonise over any event that involves speaking to a public audience. 

2) Dating and courtships - SADs are afraid of dating another. It's because beyond oneself, it's unfamiliar territory. It poses the danger of being vulnerable. 

3) SADs do not make eye contact for fear of being noticed. 

4) The anxiety awakens upon entering a room full of strangers.

5) It can also be triggered on using public restrooms. 

6) Going to parties can be like entering a war zone for SADs, as there's just too many strangers to behold. 

7) Eating in public.

8) Going to school or work may also be challenging, as it involves social interaction with colleagues/peers. 

9) Lastly, starting a conversation as many SADs do not know how it will go or in what way it will leave them, after.

What causes SAD? 

There is no exact cause for social anxiety. For addicts, it's possible that this has been an underlying illness that has fuelled addiction. Knowing the reasons for its occurrence can help sufferers identify and understand their problem. Below are some reasons why SAD occurs. It's not an exhaustive list, as there may be more causes than what's listed below. They are as follows:


Most people who suffer from social anxiety have a history of it in the family. One of their family members had suffered from the same illness. Thus, it can be a heritable illness. 

Traumatic Experiences.

Growing up with developmental trauma could have caused social anxiety to occur. Developmental trauma is any childhood that has not been loving or nurturing. This could include having been a victim of abuse, be it at school. For example, being bullied or punished by teachers/peers. For more on developmental trauma and how if affects the addict, click here.

Over controlling parents

Another form of developmental trauma is when parents put the fear of society into their children as a means to control their behaviour. For example, forbidding their children to have friends as it may result in bad influences. When parents put the fear of society into their children, they remove the child's natural ability to make decisions for themselves. For more on an inner locus of control, read this article. Thus, they grow up as frightened adults.


The shyness of a SAD sufferer is different from avid shyness. You have the shyness that mimics bashfulness, which is an endearing trait. Then, you have pathological shyness that inhibits growth. Being shy from a SAD perspective is harmful as it encourages anti-social experiences to fester. Without appropriate intervention, such behaviours may result in a lack of social skills come adulthood.

Development of a health condition that predisposes ridicule 

SAD may also have developed out of certain perceivably abnormal health conditions. For example, society may ridicule people who are obese, short, odorous, or who have a funny voice. When one is too self-aware of social shortcomings as a result of these conditions, social anxiety can set in.

Effects of SAD

Unfortunately, SAD has a great many sad side-effects. It's no mistake the disease has a similar acronym to the emotion itself. And, no accident, either that it is called SAD. For without proper treatment, it leaves its sufferers in a truly sad state of affairs. Here's why: SAD sufferers will avoid all social situations, ending up alone and depressed. They will have few friends that they can relate to; and when times are trying, nobody to talk to.

SAD sufferers may even give up going to work or school for fear of socialising. This will affect their possibilities for social mobility and their futures. As Jo, who is a SAD sufferer from U.K.'s NHS commented, "..there will come a time when I need to make money...I can't live this way nor depend on (social benefits) all my's not a way to live." SADs may end up isolated from everyone. And, to cope with such isolation and depression, some have become addicted to drugs, alcohol, and or process addictions. With that, comes a whole gamut of negative consequences. For more on addiction, click here.

Seek Treatment with us at Solace Sabah We are a drug and alcohol rehab in Malaysian Borneo. We treat addicts who are suffering from social anxiety disorder. In order to be treated from SAD, you or a loved one must first seek treatment for your addiction. It's because all this while, the addiction has been hiding the symptoms of SAD. Once unearthed through therapy and treatment, SAD can be addressed by our well-trained clinical team. Hence, recovery can be yours from both SAD and addiction. For more information about us and our treatment programs, give us a call. We're always ready to help.

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