Wednesday 3 December 2014

Botox and Emotions

Just in case you have been considering paralysing your face muscles for reasons of vanity, perhaps after reading this post you will think twice!

Botox is a drug made from a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum called "botulinum toxin". Given that botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known to man. you won't be surprised that there are lots of web sites (such as this one) warning about its dangers. Yet those warnings seem to be going unheard if the growth in face-freezing salons is anything to go by!

Disabling the muscles of the face takes away its ability to express certain emotions which use those muscles. A 2010 study by Barnard College in New York State demonstrated that if the ability to express emotions is lost, then the the intensity of those emotions is also impaired!

Researchers have given the link between botox and emotions the rather grand title "The Facial Feedback Hypothesis" which states that facial movement can influence emotional experience. Of course those of us familiar with AT will immediately recognise this as Psychphysical Unity. We know that it is a mechanism that isn't just restricted to facial muscle feedback. I have written about psychophysical unity in a previous post.

Study: Botox Erases Wrinkles, Maybe Emotions Too

Not surprisingly, the multi-million pound botox industry has defended itself by casting doubt on the validity of the study and publishing interviews with famous "frozen visages" stating how happy they feel with their new "youthful" appearance. Not that "happy" was the emotion that the study focussed-on. They have even countered by suggesting that the facial feedback effect could be used to control depression! They don't specify exactly which muscles are responsible for expressing depression or whether those muscles are also involved in all the other emotional expressions.

Given the risks associated with the toxin itself, my view is that whether or not this study is repeated and validated, the risk of impairing your emotional responses is too high a price to pay for vanity.

The full paper describing the study is shown here. I have not found any studies that have refuted the claims.


  1. It's been a long time since I added a new post to this blog. This has been for a variety of reasons, one of which was that 2 years ago I was blinded in my (previously good) left eye by a botched retinal operation. I'm glad to say that after prolonged healing and cataract surgery, I can now function reasonably well. I hope to post more often from now on :-)

  2. I must add having used botox injections for "frown lines "between my eyes , i scowl when intent, when in the sun and the resulting lines made me look angry all the time so i researched botox and used in that area at the prescribed dosage by an experienced doctor, i the needles used calibrate each shot carefully, f you aren't allergic too it, there is very little risk of adverse reactions. When they use larger doses for cerebral palsy spasms in neck and trunk there's some risk of it causing issues. And it does NOT freeze your expression or look unnatural and i assure you i can when appropriate feel and express anger no problemo! The risk and effects for treatment are misrepresented . Irs one of those don't try this at home kids type thing. Granted we shouldn't try to solve emotional issues by injections. But one can feel emotionally much better not to have deep angry looking furrows when not frowning or angry. And the shots are very quick a small prick and don't bruise except occasionally at crows feet beside the eyes which i don't get. i just wanted to correct the exaggerated scare tactics for ladies who might be put off from treatment they will enjoy the results. And it wears off in a couple months gradually even if you missed those lines.

  3. Thanks for your input Miss Fortune. It's impossible for one person to make an objective judgement about their own treatment. Nothing in this article suggests that the effect on emotions is caused by improper dosage of Botox.

    There are many medically efficacious uses of Botox so I'm not suggesting that it is intrinsically bad. What I am saying however is that we should not treat the mind/body relationship as a dualism. A cosmetic problem solved may lead to unanticipated emotional consequences.

  4. I found the Botox treatment to be very effective and was very impressed with the results I achieved. I would say Botox treatment is just the solution for ageing skin problems. I now look a lot younger and go out feeling confident because the wrinkles and fine lines have disappeared. Thanks Botox!
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