New Discovery About Social Anxiety Disorder - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 06:01 AM Thread Starter
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New Discovery About Social Anxiety Disorder


Social Anxiety Susceptibility Is Traced to a Specific Brain Circuit and Genetic Variation


Researchers report progress in untangling a web of complexities that they believe can give rise to social anxiety disorder.

They have amassed evidence directly linking susceptibility to social anxiety disorder with problems in a neural circuit that runs between a part of the cerebral cortex called the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and the BLA, a part of the amygdala, an area deep in the brain involved in processing emotions.

The team, led by two BBRF Scientific Council members, identifies the source of the problem in the OFC-BLA circuit: insufficient amounts of an important growth factor called BDNF in the affected regions, specifically during adolescence.

Francis S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., of Weill Cornell School of Medicine, and B.J. Casey, Ph.D., of Yale University, along with colleagues including Conor Liston, M.D., Ph.D., and M.D.-Ph.D. candidate Anfei Li, performed imaging experiments in humans as well as a variety of experiments in mouse models of anxiety. Some of the mice were bred to carry the human version of a genetic variant (called Val66Met) in the BDNF gene that impairs the ability to secrete the BDNF protein.

In both people and mice carrying the BDNF genetic variation, the researchers noted that OFC-BLA circuit is disrupted, due to “insufficient BDNF bioavailability,” specifically during adolescence.

Experimentally limiting BDNF availability in mice beginning in adulthood had no impact on susceptibility to social anxiety behaviors. The damage was done only when immature animals lacked the ability to secrete sufficient amounts of BDNF to support properly working OFC-BLA circuitry. Boosting expression of BDNF in adolescent mice carrying the adverse variation appeared to enable these mice to be free of social anxiety once they matured.

Experimentally limiting BDNF availability in mice beginning in adulthood had no impact on susceptibility to social anxiety behaviors. The damage was done only when immature animals lacked the ability to secrete sufficient amounts of BDNF to support properly working OFC-BLA circuitry. Normal animals that were deprived of BDNF during adolescence were separately observed to be prone to social anxiety. Boosting expression of BDNF in adolescent mice carrying the adverse variation, conversely, appeared to enable these mice to be free of social anxiety once they matured.

It is not fully understood why plentiful BDNF during a critical window in time translates years later into much lower risk of social anxiety, although it may reflect the critical role of BDNF in the proper development of this specific circuit that regulates social behaviors, the team says.

The circuit in which the fault occurs, the team acknowledges, “is likely a part of a larger and complex social network” consisting of other circuits too, not yet clearly delineated. The team is confident that malfunction of OFC-BLA circuit “is social-specific,” and rather than affecting sociability, generally, seems to affect social behavior specifically when an individual confronts “challenging social situations.”

Noting their ability to “rescue” young mice born with the genetic variant that affects BDNF secretion—by boosting BDNF levels—the researchers speculate that therapies and medicines able to elevate levels of BDNF, including exercise, environmental enrichment, and antidepressants, may one day be tested as correctives for people with behavioral alterations caused by the BDNF genetic variation.

In addition to being members of the BBRF Scientific Council, Dr. Lee is a 2010 BBRF Independent Investigator and 2005 and 2002 Young Investigator; and Dr. Casey is the 2015 Ruane Prizewinner for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research. Dr. Liston is a 2013 BBRF Young Investigator.


So what do you think of this new research? Thoughts? Moves closer to proving that social anxiety disorder is genetic and what part of the brain is responsible. Hopefully leads to new treatments

Last edited by Silent Memory; 05-24-2019 at 06:25 AM. Reason: I changed the large font size at the top to something smaller - It felt like an optical illusion.
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 06:56 AM
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Anybody who's got a bit of common sense knows that genetics play a major part. It's 10000000000000 times more complicated than 99% of people put it out. Change your thinking bla bla bla. Yes, I'm cured. It comes naturally and automatically without even thinking. It's like a reflex which is completely out of your control. Then you add environmental factors, society which favours extroverts and sees quietness as a weakness and it becomes a hamster wheel which you can't escape.

Interesting thing is that we will never know if those people who claim that they have overcome their anxiety have actually done it. We don't see them in day to day basis and we don't know how they were doing before they "cured" their anxiety. Some of them offer online courses or however you call them but maybe they're still stuck with their SA and try to bull**** others by selling stuff that they haven't even invented but just copied from some psychotherapy books.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 07:09 AM Thread Starter
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Anybody who's got a bit of common sense knows that genetics play a major part.
Agree with you 100 percent on it being genetics playing a huge role. Unfortunately lots of other people dont have common sense. Mostly the talk therapy people who just say you change your thinking and get to the root of the problem and you are cured! Sure Ive tried talk therapy (CBT) and it did help a bit. But we need more effective medications to fix the issue in the brain that this study seems to indicate exists.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 02:01 PM
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Agree with you 100 percent on it being genetics playing a huge role. Unfortunately lots of other people dont have common sense. Mostly the talk therapy people who just say you change your thinking and get to the root of the problem and you are cured! Sure Ive tried talk therapy (CBT) and it did help a bit. But we need more effective medications to fix the issue in the brain that this study seems to indicate exists.
I dont have much hope. Its just emptiness for me. Besides I have schizoid personality traits which make it even worse. I could never ever fall in love coz it would be impossible for me to express feelings. And many more things. The time is ticking. Im 25 and there are days when I imagine myself at the age of 55 and Im still the same. Everything seems hopeless. I can only imagine what it feels like to be "normal". To be able to express yourself without fear, to love, to approach people without fear, to actually feel excited about human interaction. I can only dream...................
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 02:45 PM
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I am not "malfunctioning"

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 08:34 PM
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 01:35 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by sensitiveguyyyy View Post
Im 25 and there are days when I imagine myself at the age of 55 and Im still the same. Everything seems hopeless. I can only imagine what it feels like to be "normal". To be able to express yourself without fear, to love, to approach people without fear, to actually feel excited about human interaction. I can only dream...................
Don't give up and it will get better. When I was 25 stuff was very bad for me with SA and I was in a very bad situation. Im 41 now. Things certainly are not perfect now but they are a big improvement over when I was 25. So things will likely get better.


Feeling "normal" and being able to express yourself without fear, to love, to approach people without fear as you say would be amazing. I always wanted to be that fun outgoing guy that had all the friends and no problem getting women! As the study mentioned indicated just not the way are brains and wired unfortunately. But we have to keep moving forward and doing what we can to improve. Stay strong
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 02:15 AM Thread Starter
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I am not "malfunctioning"

Why do you object to the term "malfunctioning" as used in this study? You have a better term you think fits this condition of Social Anxiety? Seems to me "malfunctioning" describes our brains pretty well. Sure not working normally. Even if SA is not caused by the conditions in the brain as the study suggests are thinking itself is "malfunctioning"
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by chrisinmd View Post
Why do you object to the term "malfunctioning" as used in this study? You have a better term you think fits this condition of Social Anxiety? Seems to me "malfunctioning" describes our brains pretty well. Sure not working normally. Even if SA is not caused by the conditions in the brain as the study suggests are thinking itself is "malfunctioning"
I guess we can agree to disagree on that bit.

I do think it deals some bit with genetics but I think there's also other parts to it. Heck, the people here alone kind of make me doubt that it's solely a genetic thing.

I don't like to think of myself as malfunctioning though, despite my acknowledgment of not being up to par with society's expectations.

It's more like I'm behaving as I was meant to or have become naturally, for me. Other people might not get to the point that I have and maybe that's why extroverts exist too.

Anyway, that aside, I do think this stuff is a very big step towards seeing different treatment for us than we have thus far.

I just wish society was more willing to accept some of us simply can't do what some can do. It's hard, mate.

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 06:23 PM
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I think there are many different forms of social anxiety, and such sweeping generalisations might not be proper. Sometimes social anxiety may be triggered by a brain malfunction and require intrusive methods to be cured. More often it probably comes from our life experiences and extremely negative reactions to them, as was the case for me, for example.

I am always sceptical about claims that something is genetic/natural and cannot be changed at will. Maybe it is true for some things, but it is still a bad attitude to have. If you aren't in control of who you are, then you've already severely limited what you can accomplish.

It is the easy way out, to accept that your problem is just what it is and you don't have to do anything to try to change it. Easy, but also sad. It's better to keep fighting, no matter what incomplete research says.
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 06:27 PM
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I think there are many different forms of social anxiety, and such sweeping generalisations might not be proper. Sometimes social anxiety may be triggered by a brain malfunction and require intrusive methods to be cured. More often it probably comes from our life experiences and extremely negative reactions to them, as was the case for me, for example.

I am always sceptical about claims that something is genetic/natural and cannot be changed at will. Maybe it is true for some things, but it is still a bad attitude to have. If you aren't in control of who you are, then you've already severely limited what you can accomplish.

It is the easy way out, to accept that your problem is just what it is and you don't have to do anything to try to change it. Easy, but also sad. It's better to keep fighting, no matter what incomplete research says.
I tend to think it's maybe a combination of everything but at the end of the day, I do think SA is probably just a normal human response to the unnatural state of the world we live in. For example, fear of strangers/unfamiliar/unpleasant situations is probably an evolutionary relic that we actually needed to survive when we didn't have nice, safe communities with cops to keep us safe and so forth. This is all pretty recent. You probably wouldn't go out your door without a weapon in the distant past. And you'd probably be watching everything and worried constantly when near strangers.

Society just doesn't want to accept this because the number of people who can't adapt is relatively small.

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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by chrisinmd View Post
Why do you object to the term "malfunctioning" as used in this study? You have a better term you think fits this condition of Social Anxiety? Seems to me "malfunctioning" describes our brains pretty well. Sure not working normally. Even if SA is not caused by the conditions in the brain as the study suggests are thinking itself is "malfunctioning"
I have no trouble at all with the term malfunctioning. It seems pretty bloody obvious to me that I'm not functioning in a "normal" way - both in terms of anxiety and with my bipolar disorder.

Thanks a lot for the interesting article - I will have a closer look at it soon. (I have to do these things slowly)
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 07:20 PM Thread Starter
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I tend to think it's maybe a combination of everything but at the end of the day, I do think SA is probably just a normal human response to the unnatural state of the world we live in.
Good post. So how is SA a normal human response if from the stats I have seen only about 7 percent of the population suffers from this disorder?

I dont know I tend to think for me personally at least SA was more genetic. From a very young age I was very shy and anxious and didn't have any trauma at that point that I am really aware of to cause it. I remember never talking hardly at all in elementary school and having panic attacks with shaking and trembling really bad when I had to give a presentation in class. So that leads me more to think genetic.

But later in my teen years I was bullied quite a bit in school and my parents fought a lot at home so that made my SA worse. So I think I had the genetics start me off down a bad path and then my environment made it even worse.
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 07:40 PM
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Good post. So how is SA a normal human response if from the stats I have seen only about 7 percent of the population suffers from this disorder?
Again, IMO, SA isn't really a disorder. It's normal to be averse to unfavorable conditions. High stress and high pressure are conditions many people are averse to just like being out in the sun on a 120 degree day is highly unpleasant. Most people could tolerate it (probably) under the right circumstances but it is an extreme that humans are not very good at dealing with.

Most people can adapt to the unpleasant social conditions that society throws at them on a daily basis (It is just my opinion that society is often highly unpleasant but it seems to be one that many people share so it isn't rocket science to conclude that society isn't an environment that most people naturally enjoy). That doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with the people who can't adapt. IMO, it just means that civilization is approaching the point where most people might not be able to adapt to future changes in the way the world works.

7% is relatively small but not that small. For comparison.....

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Green eyes have low to moderate amounts of melanin and they're super rare—only an estimated 2 percent of the population have them
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Approximately 79% of the world's population has brown eyes, which makes it the most common eye color in the world. After brown, 8%-10% of the world has blue eyes, 5% has amber or hazel eyes, and 2% of the world has green eyes.
There's probably a name for this fallacy but frankly I'm too lazy to look it up. Of course having green eyes doesn't make your mind averse to a miserable existence as a slave in a society that basically sees you as food so I digress.

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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 08:11 PM
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I tend to think it's maybe a combination of everything but at the end of the day, I do think SA is probably just a normal human response to the unnatural state of the world we live in. For example, fear of strangers/unfamiliar/unpleasant situations is probably an evolutionary relic that we actually needed to survive when we didn't have nice, safe communities with cops to keep us safe and so forth. This is all pretty recent. You probably wouldn't go out your door without a weapon in the distant past. And you'd probably be watching everything and worried constantly when near strangers.

Society just doesn't want to accept this because the number of people who can't adapt is relatively small.
Well, the existence of people with SA is a well known phenomenon, and everyone has SA to some degree, some people just have a very sharp form of it that prevents them from socialising freely. The society knows it very well and accepts it, even if some of its members do not fully understand it.

I'm not sure I believe that it comes from the distant past. I think it's the way any society naturally conditions its members: societies are only stable when the majority of their members have a lot in common, and that makes the society strongly discourage "abnormal" behaviors. A kid laughs loudly at a good joke in a restaurant, his parents tell him to be silent, and the kid is traumatised and learns that being loud and laughing is bad and dangerous - and over time such experiences accumulate and scare the person into submission to the arbitrary societal norms.

I've always been an odd one, not really conforming with the societal expectations, and that led to a lot of rejection experiences in my childhood and teenage years, generating a fairly strong social anxiety. It took me a lot of time to reassess my values and realise that a lot of the things I was afraid of were just the results of other people telling me what to do, and that I didn't have to care about their opinion much - and still I can't say I'm free from the societal judgment.
This fear is present in everyone to some extent. As someone said, "Only two types of people are never afraid: killers and idiots." But some people have a much bigger threshold for things that make them scared, either because of their happy childhood, or because of their ability to reassess those traumatic experiences and move on.

There is probably a biological component as well, but it seems to me that, regardless of how strong it is, our society is organised in a way that strongly encourages development of social phobias. It will be interesting to see how it will be 100 years from now, when so many venues for escapism appear that many of us won't need to ever interact with another human being again. Perhaps socially outgoing people will start becoming extinct. Or maybe, in contrary, we will develop some medical advances that will allow us to completely annihilate any anxieties. Will see.
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post #16 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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"Only two types of people are never afraid: killers and idiots."
Great quote. Love it.
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post #17 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 12:27 AM
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It is the easy way out, to accept that your problem is just what it is and you don't have to do anything to try to change it. Easy, but also sad. It's better to keep fighting, no matter what incomplete research says.
In Buddhism, fighting negative feelings only leads to more negative feelings.

Two sides of the same coin, or something.
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post #18 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 01:15 AM
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In Buddhism, fighting negative feelings only leads to more negative feelings.



Two sides of the same coin, or something.
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Yeah, the idea is to surrender to what is, to accept reality as it is. That doesn't mean we can't take any action to change our circumstances but actually when you surrender you have a clearer consciousness and can therefore take more efficient action.
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post #19 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 04:10 AM
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It is the easy way out, to accept that your problem is just what it is and you don't have to do anything to try to change it.
Well, not really. There'd have to be an out before there could be any way to get there. There's no way out. For anyone (atheist 101).

The way the world works is we all pay the piper one way or another. Eventually. Some of us could put more effort into trying to change what is. But that certainly does not mean it's going to work. So, IMO, I have to weigh the effort this would take against the chances of success and in my estimation, (speaking for myself here) I'd be trying to move a boulder 100 feet with the total output power of a gerbil. Seriously. People think this is an exaggeration. For some people, it might be. For me? No. It's not an exaggeration.

So, to me, it's not worth fighting the inevitable.

What I am good at is what I'm doing right now. I can show people who still have time and resources and good health what happens if you waste that. If someone is sitting out there right now and they're in the prime of their life and the only reason they're not doing what they want to do is SA, they will be me someday if they procrastinate.

So really. I don't think we need to call people wussies for trying to deal with their SA in their own way. It's their choice. I think it is probably better to just show them where they're headed if they don't try. And realistically, I don't think this is something I really even need to say. I have been on this forum for 10 years and approaching 30k posts and I have never lied about what my life is like. Anyone on this forum can look at my posting history and see what the future holds for people who waste their opportunities and resources. This is not rocket science (as they say).

For me at my age with my problems and my resources (lack thereof) and my life circumstances, I'm pretty much done. But I'm not entirely useless for that reason. That is pretty much the one thing that keeps me on this forum (other than habit). The knowledge there are people here who still have a fighting chance.
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post #20 of 25 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 06:23 PM
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I tend to think it's maybe a combination of everything but at the end of the day, I do think SA is probably just a normal human response to the unnatural state of the world we live in.
Good post. So how is SA a normal human response if from the stats I have seen only about 7 percent of the population suffers from this disorder?

I dont know I tend to think for me personally at least SA was more genetic. From a very young age I was very shy and anxious and didn't have any trauma at that point that I am really aware of to cause it. I remember never talking hardly at all in elementary school and having panic attacks with shaking and trembling really bad when I had to give a presentation in class. So that leads me more to think genetic.

But later in my teen years I was bullied quite a bit in school and my parents fought a lot at home so that made my SA worse. So I think I had the genetics start me off down a bad path and then my environment made it even worse.
I identify with you cause my scenario is similar to yours
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