By On March 28th, 2019

Social anxiety disorder may lead to the development of alcohol use disorder

A new study from researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health suggests social anxiety disorder may directly contribute to an increased risk for alcohol use disorder.

Unlike other forms of anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder could be causally linked to a greater risk of problematic drinking and alcohol use disorder according to the report recently published online in the journal Depression & Anxiety.

“Many individuals with social anxiety are not in treatment. This means that we have an underutilized potential, not only for reducing the burden of social anxiety, but also for preventing alcohol problems,” said lead author Fartein Ask Torvik, Ph.D. “Cognitive behavioral therapy with controlled exposure to the feared situations has shown good results.”

The findings come from a large scale study, in which Dr. Torvik and colleagues interviewed over 2,800 adult Norwegian twins. In the interviews, the researchers largely focused on assessing alcohol use, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, or other specific phobias.

While other types of anxiety and phobia have been linked to substance abuse, social anxiety was the only form which was clearly linked with the later development of alcohol use disorder.

“In clinical settings, it is important to assess if a patient with social anxiety disorder uses alcohol as a coping strategy and to discuss the dangers of self‐medication with alcohol,” researchers wrote. “Although alcohol use disorder does not seem to be a strong influence on the new onset of social anxiety disorder, alcohol use disorder could worsen the course of social anxiety disorder. This is particularly relevant when alcohol is naturally present in the feared situations.”

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