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Substance Abuse and Social Anxiety: A Sociological Analysis

Oftentimes, society takes social anxiety disorder for shyness, meanwhile, it’s shyness in its extreme. A person suffering from a social disorder finds it difficult to associate with people around him and the society at large. It starts to affect the victim’s mental health when it gets to the extreme point. Does substance abuse play a role in our social problems like social anxiety?

He feels he will be judged or embarrassed if he speaks up or interacts with people thereby isolating himself in a secluded spot. To worsen the situation, our society of today takes no cognizant look at this fast-rising ailment. A person suffering from a social disorder tends to also find a solution to it by taking drugs, which can create a correlation between substance abuse and social anxiety.

Social Problems in Our Society

So many people suffer from different social problems such as unemployment, critical health conditions, too much alcohol drinking, and the likes. Coming across these people, the society believes it’s their problem because there is a multitude of people suffering from the same problems, and forgetting the fact that any problem that passes more than the average occupants of society has become a social problem which is of utmost importance to sociologists.

However, sociology has taken this to a different dimension as it believes that personal problems often have their roots in one corner of the society itself. Hence American sociologist, Charles Wright Mill‘s definition of personal problems and public issues.

He defined personal problems as a problem affecting an individual and the affected individual together with the society still blames it on the individual’s moral and personal settings. A typical example of such problems is eating disorders, divorce, and social disorders in particular. A social disorder patient is blamed even by his family and friends and counted as his innate behavior.

C Wright Mills on Social Problems

Mills further defined a public issue as an issue whose roots culminate from social, structural and cultural settings; a problem that affects many people in the society. His point is until society takes an individual’s issue as a public or social issue, we might not have a 100% healthy society because the best approach to treating an individual’s problems is regarding it as a public issue. Hence the term “sociological imagination” which is the ability to understand the structural basis of an individual’s problems.

Substance Abuse and Social Problems

I once lost a dear friend to this social disorder because our society didn’t understand the pains he was going through. He was always indoors, afraid to communicate and associate with people around him which we innocently mistook for shyness. Unknown to us (family and friends), he has been taking drugs just to fit into the society thereby resulting in substance abuse.

The effect of this drug ate deep into his body’s systems and caused a lot of irreversible damages before we could know it. He broke down and that was when we took him to a specialist hospital only to discover that he has been suffering from the social disorder and substance abuse which we initially termed as shyness. After a series of tests, diagnoses, and surgeries, my friend could not survive the damages caused by the abuse and so we later lost him. Now imagine the number of lives this incognizant ailment would have claimed due to the societal structure we practice!

Talcott Parsons on Health

Sociology believes that a healthy society depends on healthy people and those who can control their illness. In the course of examining the structure of health and illness, Talcott Parsons, a sociologist identified what he called “the sick role” and how society defined a sick person through their behaviors. He further stated that a sick person should not

  • Be held responsible for being sick
  • Be responsible for normal duties
  • Be under any obligation to like the role but seek help to get out of the role.

In this regard, society gives access to only those who follow this guideline to assume the sick role and abandoned those who refused to seek help but live with the sickness. Even family and friends do not sympathize with such a person for long before concluding that the victim is merely seeking attention or a hypochondriac.

Scientifically, it is believed that sickness can only be ascertained through scientific research and evidence but the fact is society also determines illness. For instance, a particular illness like cancer or AIDS can only be proved legitimate through scientific diagnosis, meanwhile, society disregards this as chemical weapons’ form of weakening people in the past. This argument doesn’t frown at scientific methods but reaffirms the need for society to take on its role of encouraging a healthy society through social interaction and concerns.

Final Considerations on Substance Abuse and Social Anxiety

Sociological remedies to social disorders has to do with the life events of the victim, lifestyles, social conditions, cultural systems, and environment status, compared to scientific research that has to do with the victim’s body system like the functionality of the brain. Sometimes, stress and pressure are the main causes of social disorder which later results in substance abuse when it’s not adequately treated.

The best remedy for this can be a change of environment, stress-free activities, and increment in the level of closeness with the victim by their family and friends. And above all, assured social interaction among people.

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Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni

Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni is a native of Oyo state Nigeria. She is a 300 level student of National Open University Nigeria. She is a writer, poet, copywriter and a potential sociologist. She is a member of Hilltops creative arts foundation, All Poets Network (APNET), Risingyouths19 and Creative Club Gombe state University (CCGU). She has received awards of excellence from Risingyouths19 and other foundations. She writes to correct the abnormalities in the society and to make the world a better place. You can connect with Bilqis Omolayomi Oseni on Instagram.