When devising ways of coping with anxiety and phobias, undoubtedly doctors and researchers wish that they knew what caused them in the first place. Knowing an explicit cause would provide a lot of information that could help them devise a cure. But unfortunately, even though research has connected genetics with some disorders and traumatic events or even substance abuse with others, nobody really knows a specific cause of social anxiety that could lead them to an ultimate cure.
Rather than saying there’s a genetic cause of social anxiety, it may in some ways be more accurate just to say there’s a potential “family” cause. The reason this cause can’t be narrowed down more accurately than that is that it isn’t certain why the incidence of these social phobias is higher in certain families. Given that you sometimes see the same sort of correlation in families with adopted children, the question becomes whether this sort of anxious view of the world has somehow been learned from a family member instead of inherited.
The place where social and cultural influences have definitely been shown to be a partial cause for social anxiety is in the realm of trauma. If the person, especially as a child, had some humiliating public experience, this could trigger a traumatic response that magnifies itself over the years. Often the phobia then becomes associated with that particular type of event going on into the future. So this sort of trauma tends to lend itself to specific phobias like pubic speaking, rather than to a more generalized type of anxiety disorder.
One can’t forget that there’s another type of physical cause of social anxiety, stemming from the person’s own brain chemistry. People who have engaged in substance abuse have a higher incidence of social phobias of various kinds, and those with pre-existing imbalances in their brain chemistry also have more problems.
So even though many of the causes of these anxieties are known, there can often be several factors operating at once, from social to physical. When a person is dealing with more than one potential cause, treating their social anxiety can be more challenging.