Neuroendocrine models of social anxiety disorder

Jack van Honk, Peter A. Bos, David Terburg, Sarah Heany, Dan J. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a highly prevalent and disabling disorder with key behavioral traits of social fearfulness, social avoidance, and submissiveness. Here we argue that hormonal systems play a key role in mediating social anxiety, and so may be important in SAD. Hormonal alterations, often established early in development through the interaction between biological and psychological factors (eg, genetic predisposition x early trauma), predispose to socially fearful, avoidant, and submissive behavior. However, whereas gene variants and histories of trauma persist, hormonal systems can be remodeled over the course of life. Hormones play a key role during the periods of all sensitive developmental windows (ie, prenatal, neonatal, puberty, aging), and are capable of opening up new developmental windows in adulthood. Indeed, the developmental plasticity of our social brain, and thus of social behavior in adulthood, critically depends on steroid hormones such as testosterone and peptide hormones such as oxytocin. These steroid and peptide hormones in interaction with social experiences may have potential for reprogramming the socially anxious brain. Certainly, single administrations of oxytocin and testosterone in humans reduce socially fearful, avoidant, and submissive behavior. Such work may ultimately lead to new approaches to the treatment of SAD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Hormonal system
  • Hormone
  • Oxytocin
  • SAD
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Testosterone


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuroendocrine models of social anxiety disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this