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Risk Factors for Social Anxiety Disorder

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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop social anxiety disorder with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing social anxiety disorder. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for social anxiety disorder include the following:

Other Mental Disorders

Rates of social anxiety disorder are higher in people who have another anxiety disorder, such as general anxiety disorder, panic disorder or phobias, substance abuse problem (alcoholism or drug abuse), bipolar disorder, hypochondriasis, or depression.

Age

The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence. It rarely develops after age 25.

Genetics

Rates of social anxiety disorder are higher in first-degree relatives. Genetic influence is estimated to be between 30% and 40%.

Medical Diseases

People with asthma are at an increased risk for social anxiety disorder. People with the following conditions are also at increased risk:

  • Heart disease
  • Difficulty seeing or hearing
  • Painful condition

Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences associated with an increased risk of social anxiety disorder include: physical or sexual abuse, early separation from parents, and difficulties in school.

Revision Information

  • Morris EP, Stewart SH, et al. The relationship between social anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorders: a critical review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2005;25:734-760.

  • Schneier FR. Clinical practice. Social anxiety disorder. N Engl J Med. 2006;355:1029-1036.

  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). Anxiety Disorders of America website. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/GettingHelp/AnxietyDisorders/SocialPhobia.asp. Updated October 2008. Accessed October 30, 2008.

  • Social phobia (social anxiety disorder). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/social-phobia-social-anxiety-disorder.shtml. Updated October 2008. Accessed October 30, 2008.