Social Anxiety May Increase Risk of Disease
Social anxiety is a real disorder. People who suffer from social stress may experience increased heart rate, excessive sweating, and other, related symptoms when they're in social situations. But new research indicates that the side effects of social anxiety are even more serious than just a thinner address book. Negative responses to social situations are linked to higher levels of inflammation and a higher risk of disease, U.S. researchers say.
Lead author George Slavich, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests certain neuropathways in the brain are related to how social stress "gets under the skin" and increases disease risk.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds individuals whose brain scans showed greater neural activity in the brain while experiencing social rejection also have greater levels of inflammatory activity when exposed to socially stressful situations in the lab.
Chronic inflammation can increase the risk of a variety of disorders, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and depression.
"To our knowledge, this study is the first to identify the neurocognitive pathways that might be involved in inflammatory responses to acute social stress," Slavich said in a statement.
Slavich and colleagues used mouth swabs to test for changes in two biomarkers of inflammatory activity before and after subjecting 54 men and 70 women into two awkward social situations -- giving a speech or performing mental arithmetic in front of a socially rejecting panel wearing white lab coats.