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 the potential to increase anxiety. Just like with physical health problems, mental health issues can be aggravated by what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body. If you suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD), there are a number of bad health habits that you should avoid.

Drinking Too Much 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 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. If you normally consume two cups of coffee a day, try lowering it to one and see if you notice a difference.

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Research shows that people with insomnia are more at risk for developing anxiety disorders. If you suffer from insomnia, meet with your doctor to discuss medication options or try using strategies on your own to improve your sleep.

Sticking to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible may help, as will sleeping a set number of hours. If you normally go to bed at 10 pm but lie awake until 1 am, and then don't get up until 8 am, try instead going to bed later, such as at 11:30 pm, and setting your alarm for 6:30 am. This gives you 7 hours of sleep, and you'll probably find it easier to fall asleep at the later time.

Not Getting Regular Exercise

Regular intense exercise such as running can help alleviate anxiety, while being sedentary may worsen your social anxiety. During exercise, you release endorphins which give you a feeling of well-being and may reduce anxiety. Incorporate regular exercise into your life to improve your social anxiety.

Other potential 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.

Poor Eating Habits

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, 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.

While not unhealthy, extremely spicy foods may also aggravate anxiety, so it's best to manage your consumption of these foods if your social anxiety is not under control.

Smoking Cigarettes

Some people smoke cigarettes to try to relieve tension and anxiety. 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.

A Word From Verywell

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.

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