While the environment means the most in the short term, your genes play a crucial role in the long term. This is the conclusion of a large study on social anxiety and evasive personality disorder from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

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The National Institute of Public Health writes this on its website. They refer to the results of a study in which 3000 twins have been followed over a period of ten years. The National Institute of Public Health further writes:

The result shows a surprisingly high heritability of long-term risk of developing social anxiety, says Fartein Ask Torvik, researcher at the Department of Genetics, Environment and Mental Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The new thing about the study is that it gives a clear picture that the genes are very important for the development of social anxiety in the long run. 

This means that the effects of environmental incidents, such as being bullied or losing your job, are of limited duration. The effect of the events that cause one to get social anxiety at one point, simply passes. The fact that social anxiety disorder is so unstable after all, can give hope to those who struggle with this, says Torvik.

 

The disorder can disappear - and it can occur late

An important finding in the study was also that social anxiety is a less persistent disorder than one often thinks. The National Institute of Public Health writes:

The anxiety was less stable than expected. Two-thirds of those who had social phobia when they were interviewed in their 20s no longer met the diagnostic criteria when they were interviewed ten years later.

On the other hand, some of those who did not have social anxiety at the age of 20 had developed this anxiety disorder at the age of 30. 

  

Genes are most important in the long run

The reason why there are genes that have the most to say in the long run can be explained in the following way, according to Fartein Ask Torvik:

This is probably due to the fact that personality traits that predispose to the disorders, namely introversion and low emotional stability, are influenced by genetics. If you have both of these personality traits, the risk of developing social anxiety is high. If, on the other hand, you look at a specific time, it is the environment that has the most to say about whether you have social anxiety.

The events that affect social anxiety in the 20s have little to say when you have reached the 30s. The environment thus means the most in the short term, and the effect of what you experience is largely gone.

 

It is possible to overcome social anxiety

Although genes play an important role in the development of social anxiety, it is quite possible to get rid of social anxiety. The National Institute of Public Health writes: 

Even if you have had a good, safe upbringing, you can experience social anxiety. But if you have an inherited risk, you can learn to defy the tendency to avoid and know what can be done if the anxiety strikes.

Even if the genetic risk is persistent, it does not mean that you have to live with the ailments. There is good treatment for social anxiety. The treatment involves exposing oneself to the dreaded situations and accepting that one feels anxiety.

 

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Written by

ove heradstveit

Ove Heradstveit

Psychologist, specialist in clinical community psychology. PhD.
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