What Is Really Causing Your Social Anxiety?

Updated on January 6, 2018

Social Anxiety and Its Relationship With the Brain

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is understood to be a fear of being negatively evaluated in social situations. This disorder can occur at a young age and persist throughout one’s adult life. SAD can be a restricting ailment that causes impairment to an individual’s social and professional functions. Though it affects one’s behaviors and outer actions, there are underlying occurrences within the brain that are responsible for this disorder.

Common adult symptoms of social anxiety are racing heartbeat, dry mouth, shaky voice, blushing, trembling, sweating and nausea, while common child symptoms can be crying or throwing tantrums in public (N.A., 2010). According to Dunlop (2007), social anxiety is prevalent in approximately 13% of the United States population. Most commonly, social anxiety appears between the ages of 10 and 19. While Seedat (2013) states that 80% of those with social anxiety also have a lifetime history of at least one other psychiatric disorder, those typically being panic disorders, generalized anxiety, agoraphobia, and substance use disorders, to name a few. SAD typically consists of a fear of social interactions and performance interactions, such as public speaking or dating (Seedat, 2013). Seedat (2013) continues to explain that even if other disorders are not present, SAD can be associated with significant distress, such as financial problems increased suicidal thoughts, as well as a decrease in school and work performances.

Though SAD affects daily actions and interactions, understanding what is occurring within the human brain can lead to control and social functionality. N.A. (2010) states brain imagining has found that those with social anxiety disorder display greater activity in the amygdala, the area responsible for processing emotions. Advokat (2013) states a neurotransmitter is the connection between two different neurons, the synapse, and the chemical substances through which neurons communicate. Serotonin is a central nervous system neurotransmitter—it is an indoleamine. Advokat (2014) describes indoleamines as a six-carbon ring that fuses to a five-membered ring with four carbons and a nitrogen. It is created in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan; serotonin is a combination of tryptophan hydroxylase and amino acid decarboxylase (Advokat, 2014). Tryptophan is not organically made within our bodies, so we get it from the food we eat, such as poultry, bananas tomatoes, and walnuts.

the cycle of serotonin
the cycle of serotonin | Source

Serotonin plays an important role in anxiety among other disorders, as well as the regulation of body temperature, sleep, sex, and cardiovascular functions. N.A. (2010) explains that reduced serotonin transmission contributes to anxiety. A receptor is commonly known as the structure within the body that a drug interacts with to produce its effects. There are 14 different postsynaptic serotonin receptors known as 5-HT. Two receptors are found to have structures where serotonin was able to bind to them. According to Hemmings (2016), the serotonin transporter member 4 (SLC6A4) is one of the most widely investigated genes and is believed to be the reason why 5-HT plays the key role in the etiology of psychiatric disorders, namely anxiety and depression. The serotonin transporter (SERT) found on the SLC6A plays a crucial role in the relationship between serotonin and anxiety.

Sakakibara (2013) states there is a short promoter variant in the SERT gene; it is linked to reducing the 5-HT reuptake (absorption by the nerve ending) and is also associated with anxiety-related personality traits. The anatomy of the brain and its neurotransmitters are constantly changing; the brain is constantly remodeling itself to respond to the environment (Advokat, 2014). When anxiety occurs, the amygdala sends out signals that there is danger, and the body must react. The reactions are usually pertaining to the flight or fight response. However, those who have anxiety have such reactions, as racing heart, trembling, crying and so on.

The changes in the amygdala responses typically occur in adolescent years but can become apparent in adulthood. It is believed that as individuals go through change, there are some who experience a reduction in the SERT levels, thus causing anxiety-like behaviors (Sakakibara, 2014); the causes can come from both genetics and the individual’s environment. Dunlop (2007) states selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically used as first-line pharmacotherapy for SAD; this is associated with response rates with about 50-60% in patients with SAD. The use of SSRIs allows for increased availability of serotonin, therefore, changing the functioning of brain circuits and reduces the symptoms of anxiety (N.A., 2010).

Social anxiety disorder is known as the fear of being negatively evaluated in social settings. SAD can be a restricting ailment that can cause impairment to an individual’s social and professional functions. It is believed that reduced amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin play a key role in the formation of social anxiety. In order to prevent or aid those with social anxiety, it is not only important we know the symptoms of anxiety, but understand what is physically occurring and changing within the brain.

References

Advokat, C. D., Comaty, J. E., & Julien, R. M. (2014). Julien's primer of drug action: A comprehensive guide to the actions, uses, and side effects of psychoactive drugs (13th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers

Dunlop, B. (2007). Tiagabine for social anxiety disorder. Human Psychopharmacology. 22: 241-244.

Seedat, S. (2013). Social anxiety disorder (social phobia).19(3): 192-196

Hemmings, S. (2016). Serotonin transporter variants play a role in anxiety sensitivity in South African adolescents. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry. 17(1): 66-75.

N.A. (2010). Treating social anxiety disorder. Harvard Mental Health Letter. 26(9).

Sakakibara, Y. (2014). Developmental alterations in anxiety and cognitive behavior in serotonin transporter mutant mice. Psychopharmacology. 231. 4119-4133

© 2018 Kristina

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, healdove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://healdove.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)