There are many physical causes of social anxiety as well as situations that may be contributing factors. Among the potential causes of social anxiety are genes and natural chemicals in the brain that affect a person’s moods and emotions. Some scientists also believe a brain structure referred to as the amygdala may be at least partially to blame. In addition, certain risk factors may make a person more likely to struggle with social anxiety. For example, a person who has been subjected to bullying and teasing may become anxious in social situations.
One of the most common causes of anxiety in social situations, or social anxiety disorder, is genetics. A person who has at least one parent who exhibits signs of social anxiety may be anxious in social situations as well. While part of this is likely related to the passing on of genes, it can also be environmental. A person who sees his parent behave in a socially anxious manner may eventually start to emulate him. Typically, however, he does so unconsciously.
Some scientists believe a part of the brain referred to as the amygdala may play a role in the development of social anxiety. This structure may help to control a person’s responses to fear. Scientists theorize that a person with a highly active amygdala may respond more intensely to stressful or uncomfortable situations and be more likely to experience social anxiety.
There is also some evidence that suggests that naturally occurring brain chemicals may be among the causes of social anxiety. For example, one type of brain chemical called serotonin plays a role in controlling a person's moods. Some scientists believe an imbalance of this brain chemical may lead to social anxiety. It is also possible that some people are overly sensitive to the effects of normal levels of serotonin.
Aside from the common causes of social anxiety, there are also some risk factors for the condition. For example, women are more likely to have social anxiety than men. Likewise, a person who has been exposed to a good number of negative social experiences may be more prone to social anxiety. A person who has endured teasing and bullying or been subjected to physical or sexual abuse may also become anxious in social situations. Having either overly protective or disengaged parents may contribute to the development of social anxiety as well.