Social anxiety, phobia may stem from gene linked to suppressing emotions

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People with social anxiety avoid situations in which they are exposed to judgment by others. Those affected also lead a withdrawn life and maintain contact above all on the Internet…Researchers at the University of Bonn have now found evidence for a gene that is believed to be linked to the illness. It encodes a serotonin transporter in the brain. Interestingly, this messenger suppresses feelings of anxiety and depression.

Social phobias are among the psychiatric disorders that are triggered simultaneously by genetic and environmental factors. “There is still a great deal to be done in terms of researching the genetic causes of this illness,” says Dr. Andreas Forstner from the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Bonn. “Until now, only a few candidate genes have been known that could be linked to this.”

This gene encodes a mechanism in the brain that is involved in transporting the important messenger serotonin. This substance suppresses, among other things, feelings of fear and depressive moods. “The result substantiates indications from previous studies that serotonin plays an important role in social phobia,” says associate professor Dr. Rupert Conrad from the Clinic and Policlinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy.

[The study can be found here.]

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