It’s not a well known fact that nutrition and genetic factors are closely related to social anxiety and lack of emotional intelligence. Genetic and neurotransmitter factors have a direct influence to our social life and even our romantic relationship status.
Only a decade ago, if we had a certain trait, then we were stuck with it. Some people went long ways to change themselves with pure effort. This involved rigorously going on many dates, and practicing confidence in human interactions.
Today we have biohacking, and those who dare open up to it’s possibilities will get the benefit of unfair advantages.
In this post you will learn various supplements, drugs, and lifestyle changes that you can implement to hack social anxiety and emotional intelligence. These are some very effective and multi-angled approaches that have helped people overcome their social anxiety, approach avoidance, awkwardness, and lack of acuity and empathy.
If you didn’t win the genetic lottery, or didn’t have a positive upbringing, that’s okay. You don’t have to put endless hours into public speaking or practicing eye contact and faking confidence. Those kinds of practices can often force you to be fake, and the benefits don’t stick once you stop practicing them.
We like to discuss things that makes lasting changes. We are all naturally confident and smart. But most of us are under a lot of stress and eat crappy diets. It’s a matter of letting go of the baggage that are holding us back.
This post isn’t only for introverts. We addresses things like speech flow, self expression, outward confidence, emotional intelligence, romantic relationships, pheromones, etc. Extroverts may very well benefit from this. If you want to become a better public speaker, better lover, better friend, or better teacher, then you’d like what we’ve got to offer.
The information is all for free.
In the TV series, Mad Men, the main character Don Draper is the highly capable and socially confident alpha. We see him get his ways in his career, with seducing women, and with influencing people.
Later in the series, we discover that his inner confidence is lacking and that he sees himself as an unlovable person. This is just one example.
High outwardly confidence doesn’t equate to high inner confidence. In fact, outwardly confidence and inner confidence can have an inverse relationship. This has been true in most people that I’ve met.
My most outwardly confident friends have very deep rooted insecurities. Fixing your social anxiety isn’t necessarily going to make you more internally confident person.
Most of us have a social role model that we look up to. They may appear to be confident and successful. But if they’re unhappy and lacking in self-esteem, then we’re merely following a blind person.
Having high outward confidence without inner confidence is like a big tree without it’s roots. Like a beautiful person with an ugly heart. Like a dictator with no humility.
How I’ve Come to Learn This
I grew up having the traits of an empath, so I was very sensitive to people’s energy and their emotions. I have also suffered from severe depression, brain fog, and emotional blunting. That caused me issues with communication and self-expression.
I truly love people, but I had difficulty making deep connections with them. In mid conversations, I would suddenly feel depressed and become apathetic. That totally wrecked many new interactions.
For years I glued myself computer and phone screens, reading research articles and health blogs and forums, trying to find answers to my chronic fatigue and depression. I was dumb enough to try any remedies without questioning them.
Somewhere along my journey of recovery, my social interactions changed to an unbelievable extent. It was like switching the light on in my brain. And I could understand people’s emotions without getting affected by them.
Researches on this matter are widely available, but are not well spread. So I compiled the lists and made them simple to understand. I was very eager to make this post because social anxiety and loneliness are major epidemics in our society.
What Influences Social Anxiety & Emotional Intelligence
1. Gut & Brain Connection: Inflammation
Nutrition and sleep are perhaps the most important factor for healthy brain function. The word “nutrition” is misleading because people often view it as simply incorporating some super foods.
Brain inflammation can cause low hedonic tone, depression, anxiety, irritability, brain fog, hostility, mania, paranoia, and intrusive thoughts. All the things that can mess with our sociability.
When people come to me, they often ask me about the currently hyped super foods. Chia seeds and goji berries for example. I don’t deny their health benefits, but eating them doesn’t get to the root of the inflammation. It’s as good as medicating and bandaging at this point.
Rather than falling to these overly marketed superfoods, we believe in simply eliminating the foods that are triggering the inflammation in the first place.
Most foods contain at least trace amount anti-nutrients and toxins that can cause inflammation to the body and the brain. Trace amounts are totally harmless unless if you have severe illness. But even most fitness junkies and health aficionados are eating too much.
You’d be very well off if you only followed this part of the guideline.
Bad diet is correlated with serotonin malfunction, blood sugar problems, and elevated glutamate. Even Mother Teresa could not keep up with her benevolence if such state was making her grumpy and tired.
Doctor Mark Hymen talks about how all of his autistic patients had inflamed bellies. Coincidence?
Foods like sugar, gluten, and dairy give me massive brain fog and decrease my overall mental function. It’s as if I become autistic in a matter of 30 minutes. Like I can’t understand people’s facial expressions and cannot moderate my own behaviors.
Each neurotransmitters and hormones harmonize, compensate, and synergize to make up your personality. Working solely on dopamine isn’t the most productive thing. But dopamine does have a huge impact on social function.
Dopamine has a big role in speech expression [R]. If you have troubles with words and ways of expressing, then restoring healthy dopamine system could be your go to.
It’s common for dopaminergic substances to make people want to socialize. Alcohol is a heavy dopamine agonist and we’ve seen people get more social and talkative on it.
The modern lifestyle with excessive instant gratification has hijacked our dopamine system. This is probably true for over 95% of the population. Food, drugs, alcohol, social media, television, porn, music, and shopping, have all rewired our brain towards seeking instant rewards.
Even people that seem well disciplined, it’s most likely that they have their fixed configured patterns that they follow, and aren’t flexible to learning new things or incorporating new habits. Signs of under-functioning dopamine.
During the time you’re fixing your dopamine, it’s important that you keep up good habits. Otherwise you could be massively fucking yourself over by further reinforcing unwanted habits. Dopamine is our monkey mind. It’s powerful, but an untamed monkey is dangerous. Avoid escapism activities, multitasking, negative thinking, and procrastinating.
Ways to restore dopamine function
- Meditation [R][R]
- Yoga [R]
- Control inflammation
- Trying new things
- Avoiding escapism activities
- Forskolin: Upregulates DRD2 [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Inositol: Chronic Inositol intake upregulated DRD2 [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Sulbutiamine: Increases DRD1 density [R]
Ways to increase dopamine activity
- Pregnenolone [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Curcumin [R][R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- L-Tyrosine [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- D-Phenylalanine (iHerb, Amazon)
- Rhodiola [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Sulforaphane Protects dopamine from neurotoxicity (iHerb, Amazon)
- Vitamin D Increases tyrosine hydroxylase [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Zinc [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- SAMe [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Vitamin B6 [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Resveratrol [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Butyrate [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- NADh [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Bromantane [R]
- Modafinil [R]
- Caffeine [R]
- Tianeptine [R][R]
- Cocaine [R][R] Not sustainable
- Amphetamines [R][R][R][R] Not for long term use
- Alcohol [R] Not sustainable
- LSD [R]
- Phenibut [R] Not for everyday use
GSK3-b is an enzyme that plays a role in mood, brain health, and sociability.
Suppression of this enzyme increases sociability and resilience to defeat. Inhibiting this enzyme also results in elevated mood, enhanced brain function, and decreased anxiety.
Inhibiting GSK3b seems to be mostly positive. So even healthy individuals may benefit from it.
Ways to inhibit GSK3b:
- Curcumin [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Resveratrol [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Berberine [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Lithium [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Zinc [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Quercetin [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Luteolin [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Apigenin[R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Butyrate [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Ketamine [R]
4. Serotonin (5HT1A)
In a Chinese study, they determined how much of an influence a genetic factor can have on the romantic relationship status of young adults. They looked at polymophisms (rs6295) in the 5HT1A gene.
They found that a person with the SNPs will be 25% less likely to be in a romantic relationship. This was true even when economic status, and external appearance was changed. 25% doesn’t sound like much, but in the world of genetics, it’s a massive number.
The SNPs may also be correlated with less popularity, overly spiritual traits, depression and anxiety, and lack of emotional awareness.
Having the SNPs doesn’t automatically give you the above traits. Genes are so complex. They all harmonize, compensate, and synergize. But if hacking this gene could increase the likelihood of an outcome that you want, then maybe it’s worth a shot. It’s relatively easy anyways.
5HT1A activation induces oxytocin secretion. This would further support the pro-social behaviors.
The best bet is to take a genetic test and see if you have SNPs in the genes of this receptor. 23andme is the one I took.
I don’t see any harm in taking things to increase 5HT1A function even if you don’t have the SNPs. They are helpful supplements anyways.
Things that Support 5HT1A Function
- Rhodiola increases the number of receptors [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Ashwagandha increases sensitivity of the receptors [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- DHA protects the receptors from negative effects of high fat diet [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Lithium enhances the postsynaptic receptor sensitivity [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- St John’s Wort increases the number of receptors [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Curcumin modulates the 5HT1A [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Ginger activates the receptors[R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Magnesium increases serotonin binding to 5HT1A [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Butyrate increases the number of receptors in the hypothalamus [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Zinc modulates 5HT1A [R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Manganese enhances the binding of other agonists [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Citrus Aurantium L. modulates 5HT1A [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Ginkgo Biloba reverses 5HT1A receptor density in aged rats [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Melatonin potentiates 5HT1A in the hypothalamus [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
GABA is a neurotransmitter responsible for keeping the nervous system calm. It promotes peaceful state of mind, lack of fear and anxiety, and undisturbed sleep. Healthy levels of it is associated with relaxed, patient, and calm traits. If social anxiety is a problem then this could be the holy grail.
GABA reduces the overactivity of the brain and leads to greater awareness of self and the surroundings, so it may contribute to increased emotional intelligence. People with autism have reduced function of it, and they have difficulty reading and understanding people’s emotions [R][R].
The stressful modern lifestyle has done a good amount of damage to our GABA system. If you thought people today are overly sensitive, lacking focus, and less resilient to stress, then this could be the culprit.
Alcohol, and benzodiazepines like Xaxax and Ativan, are popular examples of GABA agonists.
GABA receptors are fragile, and they become desensitized pretty easily. Artificially modulating the receptors with alcohol and benzodiazepines leads to receptor downregulation, so it’s not advisable to take them.
GABAergic drugs can temporarily make you more social, kind, relaxed, positive, confident, and fun, but it comes with the cost of losing those qualities in your sobriety. This happens rapidly and to such a great extent, you’d almost either have to depend on them or not use them altogether.
GABA receptors, after a light offense, can take weeks to return back to baseline. With chronic use of GABAergics, it can take months or sometimes even years to restore back to baseline.
Low GABA function is associated with anxiety, emotional hypersensitivity and instability, decreased emotional intelligence, impatience, short temperament, frustration, mania, seizure, insomnia, and hostility.
Alcohol seems to desensitize GABA receptors rapidly, while benzodiazepines do so with frequent use. Occasional benzo use is seems to be more favorable than occasional few drinks.
There are ways to elevate GABA function without causing receptor downregulation. This includes supplements, meditation, and exercise. So I would choose those over drugs as much as possible.
Way to increase GABA
- Yoga & Meditation
- GABA (iHerb, Amazon)
- Taurine [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- L-Theanine [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Vitamin B6 Converts glutamate to GABA [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Zinc Deficiency or excess causes low GABA [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Magnesium Blocks NMDA [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Butyrate (iHerb, Amazon)
- KAVA: [R] This one is potent. (iHerb, Amazon)
- Relora [R][R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Valerian Root [R][R][R] More of a sleep aid (iHerb, Amazon)
- Lemon Balm Prevents GABA from converting to glutamate [R][R][R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Ashwagandha [R] (iHerb, Amazon)
- Fasoracetam upregulates the receptors. Not very many substances can do this.
What might decrease GABA
- Polyunsaturated Fats
- Chronic Stress takes a toll on GABA.
- GABAergic substances causes GABA downregulation.
Memantine and Ketamine are NMDA receptor antagonists, so they indirectly enhance GABA function. I would prefer them over the direct GABA agonists, because they’re much less likely to desensitize the GABA receptors or cause dependency and withdrawal.
I personally favor GHB, phenibut, and benzos over alcohol any day. They don’t seem to cause acute GABA depletion like alcohol does, and they don’t give me hangovers. Either way, it’s better to not to mess with GABA at all, as it’s receptors can take months or even years to restore back to baseline.
A genetic condition that makes one produce abnormal amounts of pyrroles, causing excretion of large amounts of Vitamin B6 and Zinc from the body.
Pyroluria is highly associated with introversion and social anxiety. It can often be disguised as other mental illnesses: schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism, learning and behavioural disorders, and autism.
This is a condition that often goes undetected, yet has serious impact on quality of life. None of that “I’m an introvert and I’m proud” bullshit here.
If you suspect that you might have pyroluria, then I must advise that you get tested. You can also assess yourself with this online questionnaire. If it seems to be a problem for you, then you can start taking zinc and vitamin B6. You should notice a difference within few hours to days.
Supplements to take if you have pyroluria
Vitamin B6 (or P5P)
50 – 1000 mg / day or P5P 25 – 200 mg / day (take with food)
25 – 100 mg / day (take with food)
or Evening Primrose Oil
7. Best Supplements
So we went over the supplements and the lifestyles that can potentially better one’s social life. I left some clues as to what indications you can look for in yourself to see what approach would likely work well for you. So make sure you’ve gone over #2 to #6 to see which department you’re mostly likely lacking in. If you’re just unsure what department you’re lacking in, this section shows you the supplements that fits many of the categories listed above.
May improve autism symptoms by activating certain genes. It protects dopaminergic neurons from neurotoxicity. Encourages tryptophan to be metabolized into serotonin instead of kynurenine. This one has high potential. I’ve read about non-autistic people becoming more talkative on this. Extremely reliable anti-oxidant and antimicrobial.
Sensitizes 5HT1A postsynaptic receptor and inhibits GSK3b. Also stabilizes mood and blunts anxiety. Talk about killing few birds with one stone. I take lithium orotate, which has way less side effects than the pharmaceutical ones that contains 100 times more elemental lithium per dose.
Supports 5HT1A function, and inhibits GSK3-b. Deficiency in zinc decreases dopamine and GABA, so it’s good to keep up. This treat pyroluria as well. Rare side effect to be aware of is anxiety and irritability.
Building block of dopamine. Increases GABA and serotonin synthesis. Main component of pyroluria treatment. This also inhibits cortisol secretion.
Very potent GSK3-b inhibitor. Partial agonist of 5HT1A receptor. It also inhibits MAOI which prevents the breakdown of dopamine. One of the most potent anti-inflammatory.
Inhibitor of GSK3-b. It raises dopamine and protects its neurons. Inhibits monoamine oxidase that breaks down serotonin. I found this to be quite potent. If I take it more than twice per week then tolerance builds up. Very effective at scavenging free radicals.
Increases the number of 5HT1A receptors. It can blunt stress induced cortisol response and rise in adrenaline. Inhibits monoamine oxidase that breaks down dopamine.
Basically a steroid for the brain and a precursor to pretty much all the hormones. It strongly increases dopamine function and has as anti-depressant and pro-motivational effects. Start with a low dose. I take 1 – 2 mg and it’s enough. Most people can take 5 to 25 mg per day.
Increases the number of 5HT1A receptors in the hypothalamus. Inhibits GSK3-b and promotes GABA synthesis. It also increases dopamine. Butyrate may make you more attractive through influencing gut microbe and pheromones [R] I like to get my butyrate from banana flour and organic corn starch, but supplements are also useful.
8. Best Drugs
This may just be the king of all antidepressants. Increases dopamine, activates some opioid receptors, modulates glutamate, and also increases serotonin function. Abuse potential is high, but only when higher than recommended doses are taken.
Ever so reliable phenibut. Binds to GABA-B receptors and stimulates dopamine. Tolerance can build with frequent use. I’d use it once a week or twice a week max, and up to 1 grams per week.
Increases dopamine without increasing norepinephrine. Also increases serotonin. Very potent nootropic. Can be taken everyday without much tolerance build.
NMDA receptor antagonist. Also increases dopamine. Can be taken everyday without developing a dependence. This one is my favorite.
Increases dopamine. Some say it’s the legal cocaine. Only it lasts longer and doesn’t have depressive comedown.
Inhibits GSK3-b, blocks NMDA receptor thus enhances GABA function.
Activates 5HT1A. Increases dopamine. I would do microdosing.
Activates 5HT1A. I would do microdosing.
So controlling inflammation is the most important part. After that, if desired results are not achieved, then you can try working on neurotransmitters and gene factors. You can get some hints from assessing yourself as to what approach would most likely work for you.
If you have low dopamine symptoms, then you can try to increase it. For those with mental illnesses that are coupled with introverted and anxious traits, look into pyroluria. Inhibiting GSK3-b is likely helpful for most people. If you lacked in romantic relationships most of your life and tend to have spiritual experiences, then try addressing 5HT1A. If you have generalized anxiety or other low GABA symptoms, then tackling the cause may help you.