5 Bad Health Habits That May Increase Social Anxiety

Stop smoking to reduce anxiety in the long run.
Smoking makes anxiety worse in the long run.. Getty / Cultura / Aliyev Alexei Sergeevic

Bad health habits have a way of sneaking into your life. If you suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD), there are a number of bad health habits that you should avoid.

Just like physical health problems, mental health issues can be aggravated by what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body. Below are some poor health habits that may contribute to problems with social anxiety.

Caffeine

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some soft drinks, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications.

It is a stimulant that increases alertness and heart rate.

For many, caffeine also improves feelings of well-being and improves mood as it increases the levels of dopamine in your brain; however, this is a temporary effect. For some people, caffeine can increase anxiety. Research has shown that people with anxiety disorders may have increased sensitivity to caffeine. 

If you can't cut caffeine completely out of your day, try at least cutting back to see if you notice improvement in your anxiety.

Cigarette Smoking

Smokers often use the habit to try to relieve tension and anxiety. However, research has shown that smoking cigarettes may be linked to an increased risk of anxiety disorders.

The effect of cigarette smoking on your anxiety may be related to the indirect effects of the habit on breathing, as well as the direct effects of nicotine on your body.

Not only will quitting smoking be better for your social anxiety, it will also be better for your overall health.

If you choose just one of these 5 bad health habits to work on quitting today, this is the one.

Lack of Sleep

Research shows that people with insomnia are more at risk of developing anxiety disorders. If you suffer from insomnia, it is important to address the problem, either by meeting with your doctor to discuss medication or through the use of strategies to improve your sleep.

Lack of Exercise

Regular intense exercise such as running can help alleviate anxiety. On the other hand, being a couch potato can make you more at risk for SAD. Incorporate regular exercise into your life to reduce your social anxiety.

Even better—potential side benefits of regular exercise include positive changes in your body and the chance to meet and spend time with others, which may indirectly help to reduce your social anxiety.

Foods

Any foods that induce feelings similar to the symptoms of social anxiety (e.g., jitters, sweating or a racing heart) may make your social anxiety worse.

Although the foods that will cause these feelings are different for every person, extremely spicy foods and foods high in sugar can be culprits. In addition, overeating, eating too fast or letting yourself get too hungry can all make symptoms of social anxiety worse.

How do your health habits stack up? Take a moment to evaluate your situation and see which of your habits may be contributing to your social anxiety.

Read Next: Healthy Eating Habits for Social Anxiety Disorder

Sources:

Johnson JG, Cohen P, Pine DS, Klein DF, Kasen S, Brook JS. Association between cigarette smoking and anxiety disorders during adolescence and early adulthood. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2000;284:2348-2351.

Nardi AE, Lopes FL, Freire RC et al. Panic disorder and social anxiety disorder subtypes in a caffeine challenge test. Psychiatry Res. 2009;169(2):149-153.

Neckelmann D, Mykletun A, Dahl AA. Chronic insomnia as a risk factor for developing anxiety and depression. Sleep. 2007;30(7):873-880.

Bandelow B, Reitt M, Rover C et al. Efficacy of treatments for anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2015;30(4):183-192. 

Buckner JD, Langdon KJ, Jeffries ER et al. Socially anxious smokers experience greater negative affect and withdrawal during self-quit attempts. Addict Behav. 2016;55:46-49.

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