The most famous anti-wrinkle injection on the market is proving useful in many medical arenas, with a new study looking at whether anti-wrinkle injections can help alleviate social anxiety. Results so far have demonstrated that a change in facial expression can augment the signals our brain gets about how we feel, making this a possible future treatment for social anxiety.
Understanding social anxiety
Social anxiety is a common form of anxiety that causes overwhelming anxiety when a sufferer is in a social situation. It means these people may avoid social interactions, when it is also well observed that human beings need company. A lack of meaningful human connection can result in further psychological and physical health problems developing.
Social anxiety disorder can also include physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling, palpitations and nausea, with possible interruptions to speech like stammering and talking quickly. Panic attacks may ensue. The social anxiety package is extremely disruptive to a person’s life, but effective treatments are thin on the ground.
How our facial expressions affect our feelings
This study is looking at the power of the neurotoxin, a protein produced by a bacteria, which prevents the release of a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) from nerve endings where nerves connect to muscles. The result is a form of paralysis of the muscle and a lack of function of the specific nerve targeted.
The researchers are using anti-wrinkle injections to see if the result impacts social anxiety by relaxing the frown muscles – those that pull the eyebrows together to make a worried look. The theory is that due to the same part of the brain involved in depression being involved in social anxiety disorder, that similar results can be found as another study that used anti-wrinkle injections to treat depression. This works by quieting the part of the brain that makes negative feelings amplified.
Facial expressions, it appears, are part of the mood circuit of the brain. Fear, anger and sadness all pass through this muscle as feelings are experienced. Inhibiting the action of the muscle can calm down the circuit, making it harder to feel those negative emotions. If this treatment works, it would work faster than cognitive behavioural therapy, but further research must be carried out to see if it is a viable option.
If you believe you suffer from anxiety, you should contact your doctor for a discussion about your treatment options.