Social anxiety disorder is well known mental illness in which a person is unable to have social interaction due to its fears. Often accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression, people with anxiety disorder have troubles with self-esteem and self-consciousness. However, it is hard to draw the line between genetic and environment as a cause of this condition. Scientists struggle to find which one triggers more symptoms. Establishing that line would lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

Social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental disorder in the U.S., after depression and alcohol dependence, with estimation of 19.2 million Americans diagnosed with it and affecting 40 million adults.

Statistical data of The National Institute of Mental Health

A few months ago researchers found a genetic link between personality traits and psychiatric diseases. They discovered a genetic correlation between extraversion and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ). Also, revealed that openness traits are connected with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, while neuroticism was linked with depression and anxiety. This study has opened the door for further research on the genetic link between other mental disorders.

Scientists from the Department of Genomics at the Life & Brain research center, University of Bonn investigate on what genome could be responsible for anxiety disorder. They analyzed the genome of 321 patients with SAD against 804 healthy controls. They were searching for so-called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – the building blocks of DNA, which can be very important for predicting an individual’s response to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors and risk of developing particular diseases. It is very hard to identify potentially responsible SNPs as there are approximately 10 million SNPs in every human.

Serotonin regulates mood, memory processing, sleep, and cognition. Image credit: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Fortunately, researchers managed to identify and find a correlation with SAD in a gene called SLC6A4, which is responsible for serotonin transportation. This neurotransmitter is very important as its regulates humans mood, sleep, appetite and suppresses feelings of anxiety and depressiveness. Any defects with its work may lead to anxiety disorder.

Now when they identified which genome leads to social phobia, researchers will conduct more experiment on people with SAD and hopes to create a strong base for further illness treatments.