Risk Factors for Social Anxiety Disorder

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 healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for social anxiety disorder include the following:

Other Mental Disorders

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.


Women have higher rates of social anxiety disorder than men. However, men seek treatment more often than women for this particular disorder. This may have been because it interfers more with their professional lives. However, as more women attain highly visible employment positions, the treatment numbers may even out.


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

Medical Diseases

Asthmatic patients have a 3-fold increase risk for social anxiety disorder. Other medical diseases with increased risk include: heart disease, patients with diffulty seeing or hearing, and those with a painful condition.

Childhood Experiences

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


National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ .

Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/ .

Morris EP, Stewart SH, Ham LS. 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.

Last reviewed February 2007 by David Juan, 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.

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