CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
Like many other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of environment and genes. Possible causes include:
- Inherited traits. Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. However, it isn't entirely clear how much of this may be due to genetics and how much is due to learned behavior.
- Brain chemistry. Natural chemicals in your body may play a role in social anxiety disorder. For instance, an imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) may be a factor. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and emotions, among other things. People with social anxiety disorder may be extra-sensitive to the effects of serotonin.
- Brain structure. A structure in the brain called the amygdala (uh-MIG-duh-luh) may play a role in controlling the fear response. People who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.
- Negative experiences. Children who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. In addition, other negative events in life, such as family conflict or sexual abuse, may be associated with social anxiety disorder.
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