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Is Social Anxiety Genetic

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Is Social Anxiety Genetic

Social anxiety is genetic and passed down in families. But it is not 100% genetic. Your environment, social interactions, and experiences play a big role. You may not get social anxiety even if you have genes for this condition. Read this post to know the role of genetics, specific genes associated with social anxiety, and other details!

What is the Role of Genetics in Social Anxiety

Genetics plays a role in social anxiety disorder. Health professionals and researchers believe that social anxiety is a polygenic disorder, which means multiple genes influence this condition instead of a single gene.

If parents have a social anxiety disorder, it does not mean children will suffer from it. However, it is very much possible that most children may have a tendency to develop this mental condition.

In other words, if you have social anxiety, your children will have a higher chance of developing this condition than others. It is like a cake recipe – for example, your chance of baking the cake increases when you have the recipe. However, having a recipe does not mean you will definitely bake the cake.

Are There Specific Genes Associated with Social Anxiety

Is Social Anxiety Genetic

There are several genes associated with social anxiety and phobia. Here is the list of genes that contribute to this mental condition:

  • Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF)
  • RGS2 gene
  • Serotonin transporter gene
  • Catechol-O-methyltransferase gene

Having these genes does not mean the person will have social anxiety. However, if these genes undergo mutations, you are more likely to develop social anxiety symptoms. Well, this is a complex phenomenon, and genetics itself is a complex puzzle.

How Does the Interaction Between Genes and Environment Contribute to Social Anxiety

Your genetic makeup and environment largely influence social anxiety disorder. Most researchers, doctors, and scientists agree on the interaction between genes and the environment.

Gene-Environment Interaction = G × E

Let me give you an example so you understand this complex phenomenon. Your genes are like a seed, and the environment is the soil. A seed has the potential to grow into a robust tree. However, this largely depends on the soil quality, water, sunlight, etc.

So, if you have genes that make you vulnerable to social anxiety, whether you will develop this mental condition can depend on your environment. So, things like your upbringing, childhood experiences, parents’ lifestyle, school, workplace, etc., can influence the development of social anxiety and its severity levels.

Can Social Anxiety Develop Even Without a Genetic Predisposition

Is Social Anxiety Genetic

Although genetics can affect the development of social anxiety, personal experiences + environmental factors are important factors:

Social Construction of Self

What does “social construction of self” mean? When I first heard this phrase – I was like, what the hell? What is the social construction of self? And I kept repeating this! Well, when I performed research, talked to my psychologist, and read about it, I came to know that the “social construction of self” is actually looking at oneself through other people’s eyes.

So, you have social anxiety if you are constantly thinking and worrying about what others think and feel about you. For example, if you think your colleagues are judging your clothes, and this makes you concerned for a long time, you are suffering from social anxiety.

So, this is something that has nothing to do with genetics. However, constant worries can have a negative impact on your body, including your muscles, tissues, cells, and ultimately genes.

Adaptive Concern

I always wanted to fit in and not let my team down. But I was too worried about making mistakes and letting the team down. So, I couldn’t stay comfortable and mentally stable. So, I asked my doctor about the same situation, and they said this is called “adaptive concern.”

So, my doctor asked me:

  • Do you worry about messing up a presentation at work?
  • Are you avoiding social situations because you don’t want others to criticize you?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable in a place where you are the center of attention?

Epigenetics

Environmental factors can influence your genetic makeup and, in this case, develop or relieve your social anxiety. So this is called “epigenetics,” where the environment influences your genes’ expression without altering the sequence of your DNA.

For example, a child has experienced bullying in school. Because this was/is a stressful situation or environment, it could trigger changes in the child’s body and its response to stress. Typically, this leads to two different kinds of reactions:

  • Overactive response
  • Hypersensitive response

Anyways, if the child faces such a bullying environment repeatedly, their body will take notice of this increased stress. So, the response to this stress will become the “new normal” for the child’s body.

While the environmental stimuli won’t change the physical structure of the DNA and genes, it will definitely alter how the genes express themselves – and in this case, the child will have symptoms of social anxiety. So, this is how environmental factors can affect your social anxiety without genetic predisposition.

What Percentage of Social Anxiety Cases Can be Attributed to Genetics

Not many studies have mentioned the percentage of social anxiety cases due to genetics. However, a study published by Science Direct mentions that 27% to 56% of social anxiety conditions are due to genetics.

Is Social Anxiety Genetic – Final Words

Yes, social anxiety is genetic – but if you have genes contributing to social anxiety from your parents but they don’t express it, you may not develop the disorder. However, if you pass those genes to your children, and they express or become dominant in some of your kids, they will develop the disorder.

So, I hope you understand the concept of genetics in social anxiety. But remember, social anxiety is also largely influenced by environmental factors. Again, if someone is bullying you consistently and you feel worried about it, this stimuli can negatively impact your brain health, and you might show the symptoms.

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