Anxiety May Prevent You From Helping Others

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • People with social anxiety may be less willing to participate in prosocial behavior, such as volunteering and helping others, according to researchers at the University of Missouri’s College of Human Environmental Sciences.

    Prosocial behaviors are those voluntary behaviors which are completed solely to benefit others, such as volunteering, donating, sharing and helping someone else. Prosocial actions can be donating clothes you no longer wear, helping an elderly person across the stress or volunteering in your community. These actions are accompanied by a feeling of concern for the welfare of others. Having empathy for others and acting in ways that benefit someone else is seen as a factor in our overall happiness. “Prosocial behavior is linked closely to strong social skills and is considered a marker of individuals’ health and well-being, Social people are more likely to be healthier, excel academically, experience career success and develop deeper interpersonal relationships that may help alleviate stress,” [1] states Gustavo Carlo, PhD, a professor at the University of Missouri.

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    In the recent study, researchers found that certain people, those with a specific genotype, 5_HTTLPR, and a higher level of social anxiety are less likely to participate or engage in these types of activities and behaviors. Those participants that did not have this genotype were more likely to engage in these activities.

    The scientists believe that “individual differences in social anxiety levels are influenced by this serotonin system gene and these differences help to partially explain why some people are more likely than others to behave prosocially.” [2] Based on this, it “is possible that those with social anxiety could be helped through counseling and medication, encouraging them to engage in more social behavior.” [3]

    The researchers note that there is always the question of nature vs. nuture. In other words, how much of the resistance to engage in prosocial behavior is based on your environment, or your upbringing and how much is due to biological reasons?


    [2] [3] “Anxiety Gene May Curb Willingness to Help Others,” 2013, Oct. 20, Honor Whiteman, Medical News Today

    [1] “Those Wired for Social Anxiety Less Likely to Volunteer, Help Others,” 2013, Oct. 16, Janice Wood,

Published On: October 28, 2013