Social Anxiety Disorder
Physical symptoms often accompany the intense worry associated with social anxiety disorder, such as:
- Profuse sweating
- Stomach discomfort.
These visible symptoms heighten the fear of disapproval, and the symptoms themselves can become an additional focus of fear. Fear of these symptoms can create a vicious cycle: As people with social anxiety disorder worry about experiencing the symptoms, the greater their chances of developing them.
This condition often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcohol dependence.
About 3.7 percent of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54 (approximately 5.3 million Americans) has social anxiety disorder in any given year. Women and men are equally likely to develop the condition. The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.
Research to define the causes of social anxiety disorder is ongoing. Some researchers believe a small structure in the brain called the amygdala is involved in symptoms of the condition. The amygdala is believed to be a central site in the brain that controls fear responses. Animal studies are adding to the evidence that suggests social anxiety disorder can be inherited.
Another area of research is investigating a biochemical basis for the disorder. Scientists are exploring the idea that heightened sensitivity to disapproval may be physiologically or hormonally based.
Other researchers are investigating the role of environment on the development of social anxiety disorder. People with the condition may acquire their fear from observing the behavior and consequences of others, a process called observational learning or social modeling.