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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:

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.

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

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

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

References:

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.

Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.