Should I Start Drinking in order to Feel "Normal"? Social Anxiety and Alcohol
anonymous Asks ...
I realize that in general alcohol is not good for mental health, but does it relate specifically in any way to depersonalization? If I drink socially will it make my symptoms worse? If I get drunk occasionally will that be a big problem or make things very much worse? I currently do not drink at all but I would like to be able to go out with my friends to clubs. I am trying to have a ‘normal life’ even with my problems and this seems like it might be a normal part for a person my age (22).
Jennifer Liles Says ...
One of the primary effects of alcohol is to lower inhibitions, so if you are looking for a 'quick fix' to feel less self-conscious, it would do the trick. However (and this is a huge however), most addictions start when someone uses a substance or behavior to solve a particular problem (such as feeling self-conscious).
Gradually the original problem (which is often a problem that can be fixed relatively easily by changing behavior or thinking or both) becomes a secondary problem, and the substance or behavior (such as alcohol or gambling) becomes the problem.
I don't recommend starting to drink to solve a problem that appears to be self-consciousness and perhaps some social anxiety. It is absolutely okay to go out to clubs with your friends, announce to the bartender that you are designated driver, and get free or reduced price sodas all night.
Another factor to consider is your family history. If you have any blood relatives, especially first degree (mother, father, brother, sister) who are addicted to any substances, you have a greatly increased chance of developing addiction from social drinking.
For some people it is 'normal' to drink regularly in their twenties. Many of these folk, however, in their thirties, forties, and fifties have difficulties with relationships, jobs, and other issues in their lives because instead of learning how to cope, they drank. Many 'normal' people don't drink at all or drink very little.
Some ideas for mingling socially when you're feeling self-conscious:
- Have an 'anchor friend' with you who knows you well and can be relied on to reassure you
- Spend time before social events 'rehearsing' simple social events in your head and imagining them going well.
- Reminding yourself that no matter how interesting and attractive that person you just met is, he or she probably has insecurities of his or her own.
- Remembering that people who listen well are perceived to be intelligent, kind and interesting. Your side of the conversation can be (mostly) questions about the other person.
- You can't hear well enough to talk at most clubs.
And as an FYI: The best dance partner I ever had was the absolute worst dancer I ever met – absolutely no rhythm, but incredible enthusiasm. He was so much fun I forgot that we looked like idiots dancing together. It has been twenty years and I still remember him fondly.
Adding a substance to a problem very rarely improves the situation. It can help give you respite from the situation, but so can good conversation, meditation, baths, a good book, music, dancing, and a multitude of other ways to spend time.
Here's another thought: some people are naturally introverted and find the club scene a bit overwhelming. These are still social people, but their idea of fun is small groups, conversations, and interactions. If this describes you, there's nothing wrong with you. We live in a society that values extroversion, but over half of the population is introverted.
You didn't describe your 'symptoms' here, so I can't speak as to whether alcohol would 'cure' them. Be assured that being self-conscious and nervous about social outings to some degree is normal. All too often we decide we don't like parts of our personality and describe those parts as 'symptoms' instead of 'important bits of who I am'.
You are okay just as you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. If you are unhappy with aspects of your life and your behavior, you can work on those, but those are not 'you'. If you are already feeling somewhat 'out of control' in your life, drinking won't help that, not in the long run. Working on accepting yourself and improving those bits you want better, on the other hand, can work wonders.
Good luck, and I hope your next outing with your friends is a wonderful one.