People with social phobia are seven times more likely to be addicted to cannabis than the general population. Should you still consider medical marijuana to relieve your symptoms of social anxiety disorder? Medical marijuana has increased in popularity lately; some countries now have medical cannabis programs. With marijuana considered useful for people with broad medical conditions, from cancer to HIV and from multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s to mental disorders, it is no wonder that people who were diagnosed with social anxiety disorder might consider it as well. Cannabis has the reputation of allowing you to relax and improve your mood, after all.
We know that a large number of people with social anxiety disorder consume cannabis both as a mechanism to cope with their symptoms and to help them achieve conforming behaviors, but should they? The body of scientific literature available offers some fascinating ideas that you will absolutely want to be aware of if you have social phobia and are using cannabis or considering it either for recreational reasons or as a relaxation technique for anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder: a frequently debilitating condition
Social phobia or social anxiety disorder involves an intense and overwhelming fear of social situations that are objectively disproportionate to any real (social) danger that such interactions may entail. When faced with situations that they fear, people with social phobia may experience harmful physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, tremors, muscle tension and stomach pains. Social phobia can be so debilitating that those struggling with it strive hard to avoid the situations they fear, leading to extreme social isolation.
It is no wonder, then, that social phobia can lead people to stop attending school, to find themselves unable to maintain a job, and that leading a normal life can become almost impossible. Social anxiety disorder can lead to severe disability, and many who have it describe themselves as “low functioning.”
What’s more, research indicates that 80 percent of patients with social anxiety disorder are not treated for their disorder, something that could be partially explained by the fact that social phobia makes people reluctant to interact with the authority figures and participate in situations where all the attention is focused on them, which perfectly describe most of the therapeutic adjustments.
If you have social anxiety and you think that weed can be a valuable self-medication tool, you are not alone and at first sight, your thoughts make a lot of sense. There is, unfortunately, much more in history.
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Warning: Social Anxiety Causes Cannabis Addiction and Side Effects of Marijuana
Adults with social anxiety disorder are, according to the research, seven times more likely to develop a cannabis addiction than the general population. Adolescents with social phobia, too, are more vulnerable to weed dependence, are addicted at a rate five times higher than people without this disorder.
No other mental disorder has been associated with cannabis dependence as strongly as social anxiety disorder, something that places cannabis users with social anxiety disorder at a much greater risk of some of the more negative consequences of regular use of weeds, including respiratory diseases, accident rate, and poor academic performance.
While the average user of weeds expects marijuana use to ease tension and act as a kind of “social gel”, which facilitates interaction with other people, studies also show that it is not the case among people with social phobia. These people may experience increased stress, a more difficult time communicating with others and an even lower mood after using the pot.
Therefore, it has been hypothesized that some people with social anxiety use cannabis as a means of self-destruction, a coping mechanism in which someone sabotages any potential for improvement to avoid damage to self-esteem and to manage expectations of others, who will blame the substance abuse rather than the underlying mental condition of the person.
Another possible reason for weed use among people with social phobia is that the use of cannabis slows down the race, anxious thoughts that they otherwise experience, and make reality seem “less real”, temporarily reducing anxiety. In other words, cannabis can serve as a supposed way of handling social interactions if you have social anxiety disorder, while potentially having the opposite effect, that of making people with social phobia sink further into social isolation.
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What does this mean for you?
Given the fact that many people who meet the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder if they seek treatment, they simply do not seek this treatment, which means they have to face the struggles associated with social phobia without the benefit of professional help, it is only logical that many cling to something they think can help them, whether it be cannabis, alcohol or other addictive substances.
People with social anxiety disorder are at a much higher risk of marijuana addiction than the general population; however, it is associated with greater negative effects of cannabis use in the long run.
If you have social anxiety disorder and are already using grass and have experienced negative side effects, you may want to examine stopping cannabis use. In any case, research suggests that both talk therapy (including cognitive-behavioral therapy) and SSRI antidepressants for anxiety are a safer treatment option for you. You may also want to consider relaxation techniques for anxiety and herbs to treat anxiety disorders.