The links between mental health and substance use are well-documented. Teens and others who are affected by depression or anxiety are often diagnosed with a co-occurring addiction. People who struggle with anxiety or depression may self-medicate to alleviate symptoms. Social anxiety disorder is a common form of chronic anxiety, affecting nearly 10% of American youth.
Education regarding the links between social anxiety and drug abuse can help parents and educators recognize early signs of trouble and prevent long-term problems. At Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge, we treat teens over the age of 18 who may be using drugs to reduce social anxiety. Reach out to Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC) to find out more about our teen drug addiction treatment program. Call 844.442.8673 or use our easy online form.
Teen Social Anxiety
The typical age of onset for social anxiety is about 13, just as the teen years are beginning. At first, it may be hard to tell if your teenager is suffering from a social anxiety disorder or just being a regular, awkward adolescent. Teens are prone to feeling self-conscious and worrying about rejection, but if you notice a few of the behaviors or signs below, you might consider investigating further.
- Signs of social anxiety in teens include:
- Extreme reluctance to go to school
- Seemingly atypical avoidance of social interactions
- Rejection of extracurricular activities previously enjoyed
- Embarrassment at the “smallest” things
- Inability or difficulty making eye contact
- Fear of appearing or sounding “stupid”
- Fear that others will make fun of them, or already are—behind their back
- Extreme panic or paralysis if called on in school or required to speak publicly
- Intense negative fixation on upcoming social events, even if months away
- Hiding in plain sight to avoid perceived “confrontations”—which others would see as polite interactions
As anxiety increases, so does the teenager’s isolation, which only adds to the problem and can lead to other mental health symptoms, such as depression and teen drug abuse.
Social Anxiety and Drug Abuse
It is often difficult for people who do not suffer from social anxiety to grasp its paralyzing effects. For someone in its grip, life may seem to skid to a halt. No place or person feels safe, except for home and family. School, which is mandatory for all teens, becomes a place of torture. Social events, ostensibly the lifeblood of adolescents, promise nothing but stress and panic. However, the person with social anxiety feels lonely and isolated and longs to participate in life the way others do.
Social lubricants, like drugs or alcohol, suddenly begin to seem like a good idea to the teen who wants only to fit in. This use of a controlled substance to function normally is essentially a form of self-medication.
Once drug use escalates and masks the most overt symptoms of social anxiety, there are now two co-occurring conditions: drug abuse and anxiety, which often have a significant overlap.
Teen Drug Abuse
When social anxiety is not recognized, diagnosed, or treated, the co-occurring drug abuse worsens. There develops a vicious cycle because as the drug use escalates, the underlying mental health complications increase too. They are not being treated, only buried.
Even people close to the teen may be fooled at first. What turns out to be a drug use problem may at first simply seem like the person you’ve known for a long time is returning to their “old self.”.
It is essential to look for signs of drug use, such as :
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Mood swings
- A new set of friends
- Physical signs like loss of appetite or insomnia
If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol to cope with social anxiety, contact Pennsylvania Adult and Teen today at 844.442.8673.
PAATC Can Help with Teen Drug Addiction
It is best to treat social anxiety early to avoid the dangerous complications of drug use. However, if you find that a teenager you care about is medicating their social anxiety with an addictive drug, do not wait. Learn more about how PAATC’s professional, evidence-based teen drug addiction treatment can help. Unfortunately, we do not treat anxiety alone, but when it co-occurs with drug or alcohol use, we are here to help. Call 844.442.8673 or fill out our online form to contact PAATC today and let us answer your questions, provide guidance, and offer reassurance. Help is here.