Alcohol and Chemical Dependency
A reader asked about alcohol use and alcoholism among people with anxiety disorders.
I can respond unequivocally that it is a problem for many people who use it to self-
medicate. It is a rapid onset anti-anxiety drug for many. It’s favored particularly by
people who struggle with social anxiety as it not only reduces anxiety, it makes people
feel more social and outgoing. Teen-agers and young adults are particularly at risk
because this is the time of life when both social anxiety becomes problematic and
alcohol use is encouraged by peers. At the other end of the lifetime spectrum, it has
been discovered that senior citizens are also dealing with alcoholism. For many this
is a time of stressful and painful life changes and losses: loss of health, careers,
family members, income, to name a few. If one has not learned adaptive emotional
coping skills, alcohol can be a way to escape pain.
September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. For more
information see http://ncadi.samhsa.gov or www.recoverymonth.gov/2008/.
Social Anxiety and Oxytocin
Oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates the contraction of the uterine muscle during childbirth
as well as the production of breast milk for nursing, is sometimes called the “love”
chemical. Scientists at NIMH have found that oxytocin also reduces the activity of the
brain’s fear-producing circuitry. Scientists have followed oxytocin’s path in the human
brain and discovered that it quiets the circuits in the amygdale, the brain’s fear center.
These findings can be used to develop new treatments for social phobia, autism and
Anecdotally, I know of one young woman now using an oxytocin spray meant to help her
with her social discomfort. At this time, it has been difficult to assess its effectiveness.
Antidepressants and Vitamin B complex
Several B vitamins boost serotonin which may help fight depression. If you are using an
antidepressant, folic acid may help the drug work more effectively. A daily vitamin B complex,
which contains 400mcg of folic acid may be helpful.
More help for Social Anxiety
The Anxiety Disorder Association of America has added a new interactive feature to their
website. It includes videos, success stories, a self-test and treatment options. Very worth
checking this out if you struggle with this: www.adaa.org/socialanxietydisorder.
“Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life” by Steven Hayes, PhD is an offshoot or addition
to the behavioral-cognitive therapies that have been shown for several decades to be highly
effective in helping people overcome such problems as panic disorder and depression.
Dr. Hayes has developed ACT (known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). In my
opinion this is CBT meets Buddhism. I recommend this because some of the core ideas
of ACT are what I have found most helpful for people struggling with thoughts and beliefs
that underlies or maintains their anxiousness. For example, ACT suggests accepting ones
thoughts and feelings, rather than pushing them away as being too negative. Difficult thoughts
don’t go away; they must be accepted and understood with compassion. This alone reduces
their impact. Several self-help books have recently been published using ACT. “The Mindfulness
& Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety” by John Forsyth, PhD and Georg Eifert, PhD also contains
a guided meditation CD.
In response to the last newsletter’s parting words of the Chinese proverb “He who asks is a fool
for 5 minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever” Eli Jaffe, a friend in Los Angeles,
reminded me of another saying “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to
open it and remove all doubt.”