Social anxiety and alcohol – top ten reasons why we drink
I’ll let you into a secret, despite being great at public speaking I would rather shove my head in a bucket than network at an event. Before I worked on my social anxiety I would literally go to the bathroom and be sick. I actually know many senior professionals who do that.
The thing is its nature, it is the subconscious mind, the “fight or flight” response kicking in from the caveman days. Either fight your enemy or run for the hills. And no it has nothing to do with dinosaurs as we were not around at the same time despite what my mates thinks.
Many people start drinking alcohol to overcome various aspects of social activity as a way of getting though it. Here are the top ten reasons why you do it and how it can be helped. ( If you want to find a solution NOW that I recommend scroll down to the end of the article) but I would love you do keep reading as it can really help.
My top ten reasons why social anxiety and alcohol can seem like an answer
1) Overcome Shyness
Shyness can be natural or learned through bad experience. We feel judged and intimidated and sometimes go into “our shell” as that can be the easiest thing is to do. However, when we feel under pressure to go out we tank up on the booze to make the shyness go away.
It works up to a point however we do not consider the effect alcohol is having on our overall health and it can increase anxiety and lead to depression if we are not careful.
The result is social anxiety goes up a notch and it is a vicious cycle.
2) Overcoming what’s called a Social Phobia
Think of a fear and then think of a phobia. A fear is when we have symptoms before going out so we may have
- Fast heart beat
- Feel like something awful is going to happen
- Your skins goes red
- You feel sick
Then you down a pile of booze to get you out the door and then it’s just the start. When you get to the dinner or bar you knock back even more then can’t even remember the evening anyway.
We start to worry about how we were with everyone the night before. You wake up and think “I hope I did not make a fool of myself!” This then leads to more anxiety and a fear of not going out. You can see how a cycle easily develops.
Now in my book a phobia is slightly more extreme. Let me put it this way, if you have a phobia of flying, you would not get on that plane no matter what. As someone trained in hypnotherapy, people say to me they have a phobia of flying but then tell me about their awful experience flying. No they have a fear.
It is just the same as social anxiety if it was a phobia you just would not go out. Then of course you drink alcohol at home because you can’t go out which is not a great idea either. You end up wondering about what everyone is doing and looking at your mobile phone and knocking back the drink because you can’t go out.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Phobias by the way are not something you just get over. Your subconscious brain will be looking to protect you and will do anything to keep you in.
Take all the symptoms of a fear or panic attacks and you have a phobia but the symptoms are so much more. The one thing in common is we think we can drink our way out of it. The good news is we can’t but we could use other methods to get a better life for ourselves.
3) Being Yourself Socially.
The one thing in my work with executives who have a social phobia is that all a drink does is make you feel you can be more yourself. Of course the more you drink the more unpleasant we can become.
I don’t know if you have ever been to those networking groups where people have drunk loads and start telling you why they think you are useless. I have been there several times on the receiving end, It sucks!
However, what if you could be yourself without knocking back the alcohol? At the end of the day, here is the thing, we love people who are real and authentic.
I used to worry about saying the truth but now I’m happy to go on stage and say yes I have liver disease and get the barman to keep bringing glasses of wine on to be provocative. You know what I don’t actually care what they think. People love it!
Some people will judge and some will think it is brilliant. You are only you, so be you.
I used to know a guy who did public speaking and he came to me for coaching. It took one session to improve his performance. My questions was this:
“What makes you focus on the grumpy one at the back while everyone one else is enjoying what you have to say?” He never had a drink again before a speaking engagement, one after yes but never before. He had learned to be himself.
4 – Eye Contact
Have you ever gone into a room and been afraid to make eye contact with anyone and instead you go and get yourself several drinks and stare in your glass. You then wonder why no one comes over and says hello.
People often drink to get the courage just to make eye content. A quick tip I want you to start looking at yourself in the mirror and make eye contact and don’t look away until it feels OK.
It can be quite fun when you start it. Honest!
By the way I am not saying stare incessantly at people that’s just creepy, make it a glance, do what feels right. I personally find people staring at me uncomfortable. Just a glance and a smile is a great way to acknowledge it, it makes you and the other person feel it’s OK to be in the same room.
Remember all of these things are habits, once you have done them a few times they just feel natural even if it feels awful the first time. By the way it’s all in our head and if people turn away they are probably going through the same thing as you !
When you have made a few eye contacts then grab a drink or better still choose an alcoholic free option which can really help remove the stigma at social gatherings of not drinking.
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Number 5 Meeting People
Generally we have an issue in social anxiety where we move away from meeting people and these areas are a fear of:
- New acquaintances
- New people in authority ( so a networking or staff meeting)
- New friendships
- People not like us
- People you think are better than us ( generally made up)
The list goes on so very often socially we might have a drink to be able to “deal” with “it”.
Of course in reality many people fear meeting other people and they are just like us but alcohol can be a false crutch that we hold onto.
It was only today that I had a message from someone on my Instagram feed saying that they had been to a networking event and had a lemonade instead of hitting the bar first. They were much more in control of the whole event and quite rightly were proud of themselves.
Social pressure is a massive thing both at work and when meeting new friends. The process of us thinking we will be rejected leads the way.
There’s an old computer programme in our brain guiding us and it needs to be changed so we can reduce the reliance on drink to solve the problem.
Remember we are always treating a symptom or treating a cause. If you do not want to end up with health issues, the best advice is sort the cause first!
6) Starting a conversation
Ever had a few too many before starting a conversation. Then you go to speak and you can hear yourself slurring over your words? That’s what having a drink before starting a conversation is about.
When you start chatting it is good to realize that everyone is in the same position so take a deep breath and ask a question.
The famous Simon Cowell music guy says one thing that I think is a great idea and it ain’t having a drink. It’s this, imagine the person had a big sticker on their head saying “make me feel important!”.
It really works once you realize it is about making other people feel good then the pressure to drink goes away. Eventually of course they will take an interest in you but by that point you will be relaxed and fine.
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7) Just do chit chat
Making chit chat is perfectly OK. You don’t have to come up with a big speech or monologue and at the end of the day it’s what you do at these social events.
No-one knows what they are going to say and you will be no different. Start with chit chat and then you can find common ground as the evening or social event moves on.
Be OK with small talk, it is part of life! People quite like it, it takes the pressure off!
8) Being honest
By having a policy of just being honest it takes the pressure out of making stuff up which we can do after having a drink. We can start telling stories to impress the other person which of course feels great at the time but then we forget what we have said! Duh:)
You can include being honest with just one line like “ I nearly did not come”. “Why did I wear this dress”. As long as it has a smile it can really break the ice and people aren’t used to it. If you forget someone’s name, say so. I personally prefer that to someone who uses one of those tactics you hear about at training courses.
I would often go to a network event and say I hated them, ( the network events not the people ) you would be surprised how much it inspired conversation as you will find many people may think the same as you.
Being honest really does take the pressure off the following areas:
- Being perfect
- Being someone you are not
- Saying what others really think and therefore building rapport
- You stop worrying about saying the right thing.
- Your alcohol consumption goes down because so does your anxiety
I have seen people being carried out of networking events because of social anxiety and alcohol. It’s not a good look and your boss won’t like it either. Having said that I have also seen some bosses get carried out because of the same thing so you could be in good company but it’s not the best strategy.
9) Public Speaking
Now I am not suggesting that social anxiety can always be about public speaking. In fact sometimes it is just about getting out the door. However over the years I have seen people drink alcohol before speaking to a group and then getting up completely getting drunk. It’s their way of dealing with it.
Fear of public speaking is up there with death according to most people and surveys. However, when I have been running a training course people say “ I have to have a drink to calm my nerves to speak in front of people”
However, here is the thing, they generally say it to a group of more than 5 people, so they are public speaking and they have not had a drink.
People can always do on some level what they say they can’t even without a drink
10) Just know you are OK!
At the end of the day what is the worst that can happen?
I am not saying never have a drink but if your social anxiety is being masked by alcohol then it could be a problem. I was just a wine drinker and did not think I was unusual yet I was given 48 hours to live after my liver started to fail.
If you are embarrassed then so is someone else. Just know you are OK and by getting help you could enjoy life more without having to depend on alcohol.
At the end of the day you are human and all that comes with that. It can feel insurmountable but trust me it’s not.
Finding a solution
I can also speak from experience. Hypnosis has worked for me on so many levels, as long as you have a coach and someone who knows their stuff. Mark Tyrrell is a great coach and was one of the first people I worked with.
For an additive pattern this is a great online course you can listen to and work through it when you choose. I give it a big thumbs up and a 00abv rating of 10/10. He cares about what he does and has had thousands of people signing up.
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I would love to know what you think? Have you come across social anxiety and alcohol? Do you use it to overcome difficult situations? I would love to know what you think especially if you have used hypnosis to overcome it. I always respond as soon as I can. The more you share, the more people comment and then we get a debate going! Thanks for being here these things matter.