Nutrition & Lifestyle Issues for Social Anxiety

Social phobia sufferers may benefit from addressing dietary and lifestyle factors which can aggravate anxiety


Avoid or limit caffeine, particularly before feared social or performance scenarios. Caffeine can stay in your system for hours so don’t have any if you know you are going to be exposing yourself to a stressful situation. Chocolate, some high energy drinks, hot chocolate beverages, coffee, tea & cola drinks all contain caffeine, a stimulant which accelerates the fight or flight response. Caffeine can interfere with your sleep and being tired can make you more nervous. Switch to decaffeinated coffee, herbal tea and/or decaffeinated cola drinks, or reduce the number of cups of coffee/cola you have.


Alcohol can aggravate anxiety. People with social anxiety are often tempted to drink alcohol before and/or during social engagements as  a way of self medicating their unpleasant symptoms.

However, this is an undesirable pratice for several reasons. (1) Research has shown that social phobia sufferers are more than twice as likely as the general population to have alcohol problems (2) By drinking alcohol you are engaging in avoidance behaviour.  You are dodging experiencing anxiety and you need to expose yourself to your feared social and performance scenarios in an sober state for your anxiety to habituate. (3)After alcohol has been in your system for a few hours it acts as a stimulant, making you more likely to hyperventilate and putting you at increased risk of having a panic attack.


Stop smoking or at least reduce your number of cigarettes. Nictotine is a stimulant which accelerates the fight or flight response. Unfortunately, many people smoke before or during social events and this will only increase your anxiety. Your doctor can assist you to explore the treatment options available to cease smoking ( e.g. nicotine patches, medications such as Xyban)  and help to stop smoking is available from QUIT.


It is important to obtain sufficient sleep.Being overly tired can make you more anxious and increase the likelihood of you having a panic attack. Obtaining a good night’s sleep can be problematic for social anxiety sufferers as often they have anticipatory anxiety and may therefore not sleep well for days or even weeks before a feared social or performance  scenario.


It takes more than living a healthy lifestyle to reduce social anxiety. Help is only a phone call away, ring now for an appointment with a trained clinical psychologist on (03) 9819 3671 or 0429 88 3671

This article published on Jul 23, 2012. View related Treatment Options

Comments are closed.