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Scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact causes of social phobia. Studies suggest the disorder is familial; however these findings do not differentiate between environmental and genetic factors. Preliminary studies suggest that both biological and psychological factors contribute to the disorder.[1]

Genetic and family factorsEdit

It has been shown that there is a two to three fold greater risk of having social phobia if a first-degree relative also has the disorder. If parents themselves are socially anxious, their children might acquire social fears and avoidance through processes of modeling. Consequently, the child's exposure to social events and conversations may be limited, preventing the child from gaining the experience needed to develop better social skills. These psychologists suggest people with social phobia may acquire their fear from observing the behavior and consequences of others, a process called observational learning. A previous negative social experience can be a trigger to social phobia.[2] [3]

Some scientists hypothesize that social phobia is related to an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin. Sociability is also closely tied to dopamine neurotransmission. Low D2 receptor binding is found in people with social anxiety.[4] Researchers supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently identified the site of a gene in mice that affects learned fearfulness, suggesting that social anxiety disorder is inherited.


  1. Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Tamar Nordenberg. Social Phobia's Traumas and Treatments. Retrieved February 24, 2006.
  2. National Center for Health and Wellness. Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved February 24, 2006.
  3. Social phobia. 1999. Retrieved February 24, 2006.
  4. Murray B. Stein, MD; Jack M. Gorman, MD. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience Volume 26. Unmasking social anxiety disorder 2001. Retrieved March 1, 2006.

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