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Notzon, S.; Domschke, K.; Holitschke, K.; Ziegler, C.; Arolt, V.; Pauli, P.; Reif, A.; Deckert, J.; Zwanzger, P. (2016): Attachment style and oxytocin receptor gene variation interact in influencing social anxiety. In: World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 17, No. 1: pp. 76-83
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Objectives: Social anxiety has been suggested to be promoted by an insecure attachment style. Oxytocin is discussed as a mediator of trust and social bonding as well as a modulator of social anxiety. Applying a gene-environment (GxE) interaction approach, in the present pilot study the main and interactive effects of attachment styles and oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene variation were probed in a combined risk factor model of social anxiety in healthy probands. Methods: Participants (N=388;219 females, 169 males;age 24.7 +/- 4.7 years) were assessed for anxiety in social situations (Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory) depending on attachment style (Adult Attachment Scale, AAS) and OXTR rs53576 A/G genotype. Results: A less secure attachment style was significantly associated with higher social anxiety. This association was partly modulated by OXTR genotype, with a stronger negative influence of a less secure attachment style on social anxiety in A allele carriers as compared to GG homozygotes. Conclusions: The present pilot data point to a strong association of less secure attachment and social anxiety as well as to a gene-environment interaction effect of OXTR rs53576 genotype and attachment style on social anxiety possibly constituting a targetable combined risk marker of social anxiety disorder.