Is Shyness Genetic? The Science of Shyness

by Dealing with Social Anxiety

Scientific researchers have only recently turned their attention to one of the most common conditions known to man – shyness. Shyness, for the most part, is not really associated with any negative statistics before, but researchers are now doing research to answer the question: is shyness genetic?

As a result, more recent studies show that chronic shyness may be more than just a natural temperament or trait. Evidence now links chronic shyness to specific groups of genes, especially genes that are linked to anxiety or fear.

Is Shyness Genetic?

Here is what we know so far of shyness and its genetic linkages:

1. Shyness does have genetic roots but, is also influenced by what happens after we are born. It is our environment and the nurturing components that have the same weight as the genetic component. Therefore, it is possible for a person to have all the genes for chronic shyness but he/she may not have problems relating to other people.

2. Researchers are presently utilizing certain techniques outside the more conventional quantitative genetics to find specific genes that can cause shyness. The trend before this shift was construe from existing data that the shy tendencies of individuals were based on pre-existing behavioral patterns obtained from close family members.

This shift in the way researchers examine the genetic linkages of shyness does not in any way disrepute previous research. However, researchers are now more interested in finding out the actual genes that may contribute to the behavior itself.

3. The major player in the quest for the “Shyness Gene” is the STG or the serotonin transporter gene. It appears that individuals who possess a truncated version of the STG tend to suffer from conditions such as chronic shyness.

What is the implication of having a truncated version of the STG? Well, according to current studies, people who have a shorter version of this gene tend to produce less serotonin in their bodies. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that is supposed to be essential in positive feelings such as being happy or being content.

Having lower serotonin levels in the body tends to have an effect on a person’s general predisposition and his/her behavior. People who suffer from conditions such as clinical depression may have such abnormal levels of the serotonin transporter gene.

4. Another gene called the “DRD4” has recently been observed and associated with adventurous and highly-spirited behavior. Individuals who also have a truncated version of the DRD4 gene may exhibit a lower inclination to try new things or expose themselves to unfamiliar situations or people.

What happens when a person who has a truncated DRD4 gene is exposed to the latter?
Well, the initial (and most observable) response is stress or fear which is a physiological response to something that is professed as a threat or danger.

Researchers who have discovered this link caution people not to close themselves in with this information because as we have discussed earlier, chronic shyness is not determine entirely by genetics.

The severity or the likelihood of shyness is due to a person’s life experiences and how he/she interact with others. In short, there is still intervention or hope for change even if a person is genetically inclined to shyness. There are things that can be done to overcome shyness easily.

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