Social bonding: a new dimension in Social Anxiety Disorder
01 / 2011 - 01 / 2014
Topic: Patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) persistently feel anxious during social interactions. Although sophisticated models of SAD exist there is surprisingly little attention for the role of social bonding in this deliberating disorder. Social bonding is a basic need of humans and essential to experience happiness. Intriguing is that people have an opposite, analogous psychophysiological system to the anxiety or ?fight-flight response?. This response is known as the social bonding or ?tend-and-befriend response? and is hormonally driven by oxytocin. Oxytocin, originally known for its role during labor and mother-child attachment, is speculated to play an important role in SAD. Indeed, last year the first promising study on oxytocin in SAD was published. Moreover, first evidence exists that two types of essential social bonding behaviors are disturbed in individuals with social anxiety: a) reciprocity of self-disclosure (mutually increasing disclosure of personal information) and, b) mimicry (unintentional mimicking of others? postures, facial expressions or gestures). Approach: This research project elucidates the role of social bonding in SAD. In study I social anxiety is in- or decreased in high and low socially anxious participants during social interaction. Studied is the effect of social anxiety on social bonding behavior (i.e., reciprocal self-disclosure and mimicry) and if fundamental distortions in these behaviors exists in social anxiety. In study II oxytocin and a placebo are administered to SAD patients, and a clinical and healthy control group. Here the extent to which oxytocin affects social bonding behaviors is studied. In study III SAD patients receive either a treatment regimen aimed to improve social bonding or current treatment. Studied is whether improvement social bonding mediates the reduction of social anxiety over factors described in current SAD models. Potential importance: The results of this project may give important insight in maintenance mechanisms and have implications for treatment of SAD.