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Addict Behav. 2009 May;34(5):474-6. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2008.12.011. Epub 2009 Jan 7.

Social anxiety impacts willingness to participate in addiction treatment.

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  • 1Charleston Alcohol Research Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 67 President Street, 4 North, MSC 861, Charleston, SC 29425, United States.


Individuals with social anxiety have difficulty participating in group settings. Although it makes intuitive sense that social anxiety could present a challenge in addiction treatment settings, which often involve small groups and encouragement to participate in self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), to our knowledge no study has yet assessed the impact of shyness on the treatment experience. Assessment surveys were given to 110 individuals seeking intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment at three community treatment programs. Established cut-offs for presence of clinically-significant social anxiety indicated a prevalence of 37%. Controlling for depression and worry, social anxiety was a unique predictor of endorsement that shyness interfered with willingness to talk to a therapist, speak up in group therapy, attend AA/NA, and ask somebody to be a sponsor. Socially anxious substance abusers were 4-8 times more likely to endorse that shyness interfered with addiction treatment activities. These findings have clinical and research implications.

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