Have you ever been out at a party, maybe the grocery store, or somewhere in a public place with a lot of people, when all of sudden you felt your heart thump wildly, your breath shorten, and felt fearful? In an article published by Science Daily, the connection between these feelings and genetic traits is explored, with promise for advancement in future treatments. These type of feelings, known as social anxiety (also known as social phobia), affect approximately one in ten people, though to different degrees and at different times in their lives. Part of social anxiety is avoiding others and common societal tasks, such as venturing out into the world to go to the store for groceries or even just going to the gym, essentially going anywhere where one could be exposed to negative judgement. Consequently, people with social phobia tend to be reclusive and use the internet for most of their social experiences, rather than venture out into the world, where they will be exposed to situations that can be terror-evoking for them.
Is this trait inherited or learned? Recent research has shown that social phobia could be a result of genetics. Genetic illnesses most commonly result from SNP’s, or “single nucleotide polymorphisms.” DNA is laid out in an array of genome sequences, with each sequence being constructed by four different nucleotides. An SNP is a single nucleotide in a genome sequence that differs from person to person. SNP’s are what cause most mental disorders and The University of Bonn’s research team study indicates that SNP’s are linked to social phobia.
New Studies on Social Phobia
The University of Bonn’s research team looked at 321 people with a social phobia who were compared with 804 people who didn’t claim to have the phobia. The researchers looked into 24 SNP’s that were believed to cause the social phobias. From each patient, his or her symptoms and the seriousness of his or her phobia was recorded. Their DNA was taken from a blood sample.
After the subjects were tested and the data had been collected, it was determined that “an SNP in the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4 is involved in the development of social phobia” SLC6A4 is part of the transportation of serotonin. Medicines that increase the amount of serotonin in the brain are used to treat depression and anxiety, so it makes sense that if the transportation of serotonin is damaged or obscured the person effected would have increased feelings of depression and anxiety.
The University of Bonn wants to continue their research and are currently gathering test subjects and resources. They want to identify if there are further links between DNA and social phobia. Even though the University’s research team has made several strides in determining the genetic cause of social phobia, they are really just beginning to touch the subject and will need much more time before the exact links and causes of social phobia are found.
Hopefully, this and related research into the links between social phobia and DNA will continue to advance and provide new answers and treatment paths for those who have to live with the effects of social anxiety on a daily basis.