Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a very common and debilitating condition which affects more than 1 in 10 people in Ireland. It is characterised by intense anxiety which occurs in social situations, where one feels they are under the scrutiny of other people. It can cause very significant distress to sufferers and impact on education, employment, relationships as well as on social life. As with other anxiety disorders, we are not exactly sure what causes SAD and much research remains to be done into this condition. In this study we want to analyse the gut bacteria in people with SAD.

The APC Microbiome Institute Centre is a UCC/Teagasc Research Centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland and industry which is trying to find out more about the gut bacteria (gut microbiome) and their role in health and disease. One of the areas which we explore is the microbiome-gut-brain axis i.e. the communication between the gut microbiome and the brain. We want to gain a better understanding of the role of this axis in the stress response, and its links with other debilitating conditions, such as anxiety, depression, autism, and IBS, which will hopefully provide new treatment strategies involving food and diet. 

From previous research we know that the gut bacteria play a significant role in our response to stress. We also know that the gut microbiome is altered in patients with various disorders such as depression. Nobody has looked at the gut microbiome in people with SAD before. As well as analysing the gut bacteria in people with this disorder we would also like to investigate other differences, for example, in stress hormones, inflammation and other chemical messengers such as tryptophan.

If you have a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder and are aged 18 – 65 years you may be eligible to enrol in this study. Participation will involve a 60-90 minute interview with a psychiatrist and you will be asked to provide samples of stool (faeces), urine, hair and blood. We greatly appreciate the effort of anyone who volunteers in this study. If you are interested in volunteering in this study please contact Dr Mary Butler on 087 0971377 or email mary.butler@ucc.ie.