Social anxiety disorder is linked to higher levels of serotonin in the brain, not lower as previously thought.
People with both social anxiety actually produce more of the neurotransmitter serotonin in their brains.
The more serotonin they produce, the more anxious they become.
The result is a surprise as social anxiety are often treated with SSRIs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.
SSRIs actually increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.
Mr Andreas Frick, the study’s first author, said:
“Not only did individuals with social phobia make more serotonin than people without such a disorder, they also pump back more serotonin.
We were able to show this in another group of patients using a different tracer which itself measures the pump mechanism.
We believe that this is an attempt to compensate for the excess serotonin active in transmitting signals.”
For the study, 18 people with social anxiety disorder had the serotonin levels measured in their brains.
These were compared to people without the disorder.
Mr Frick said:
“Serotonin can increase anxiety and not decrease it as was previously often assumed.”
The findings follow on studies questioning the link between depression and low serotonin.
The research was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry (Frick et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Anxious woman image from Shutterstock