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A New Study Finds the SHOCKING Reason Behind Social Anxiety

A groundbreaking study conducted on young children’s brains revealed the real reason why some people face social anxiety – and it has almost nothing to do with genetics. When the participants’ brain activity was monitored, researchers discovered a clear link between social anxiety and the brain’s preoccupation with making errors.

Understanding Triggers for Social Anxiety

The new research which was published in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry journal highlights the underlying neurological phenomenon of social anxiety in children. The author of the research, George Buzzell, says that the recent work was inspired by his curiosity to fully understand the symptoms of social anxiety, what causes it and common triggers that can worsen the condition.

Social anxiety is the most common neurological disorder in the US which affects more than 18 per cent of Americans every year

Buzzell understands the impact social anxiety can have on one’s life. Having suffered from this debilitating neurological disorder himself for more than 20 years, he strongly believes in order to overcome social anxiety, it is important to get close to it and understand it fully – that is exactly what helped him recover and he hopes to help millions who struggle with this disorder on a daily basis.

In the study, Buzzell chose more than a hundred young participants of the age of twelve who showed behavior inhibition, a childhood temperament which is considered an early signs of social anxiety in children. The participants were asked to take a psychological test while having electrodes placed on their skull to monitor the electrical activity in their brains.

The purpose of the experiment was to investigate how well the children with social anxiety were able to block out distractions while taking the test.

Link Between Anxiety and Error Preoccupation

The participants were asked to take the same test twice: once without someone directly observing them and one where they were not being observed. Buzzell compared the results from the two tests to see each child’s post error response time and a specific pattern of activity in the brain related to making mistakes called the ‘error-related negativity’. What Buzzell and his team discovered was that social anxiety had a strong link with hypersensitivity towards making mistakes when being observed by other people.

Even though social anxiety can be easily overcome with medical help, less than 39 per cent of the sufferers seek treatment for it

One of the biggest causes of social anxiety is the sufferer’s obsession with their behavior in a social setting as well as their fear of making mistakes while engaging with others, Buzzell explained in his paper. When someone suffering from the mental disorder excessively focuses on oneself and their perceived mistakes, they are constantly distracted from the conversation.

Limitations

Like many other researches, Buzzell’s study has its limitations. Firstly, the many of the neurobehavioral measures were taken only after the children had begun to show signs of social anxiety which prevented the researchers from truly understanding the phenomenon that triggers the behavior. A better approach to the experiment would be to use the neurobehavioral measures before the participants show signs of social anxiety for better comparison of results.

Secondly, using just the reaction times from psychological tests to assess a child’s error preoccupation isn’t the most accurate measure and more sophisticated methods of analysis are required to fully understand the neurological processes before and after the error is made. Buzzell says that he is currently working on making improvements to his study in order to create a better analysis of social anxiety symptoms. The new observations are expected to be published soon.

A Team Effort

Buzzell also added that the research was a team effort and each one of his fellow experts contributed equally to find the groundbreaking results. The names of the authors who worked on the study are published in the manuscript for those who’d like to read about the experiment in more detail. The lead author showed his gratitude to his team who had worked tirelessly on the project for the past several years, especially Dr. Nathan A. Fox, who was the lead investigator of the research.

Buzzell also thanked the families of the participants, on behalf of his team, who allowed their adolescent children to participate in the project. He said that without their commitment and patience over the several years, the research would have been impossible.

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