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Stunted Emotional Growth From Botox In The UK?

Botox treatments on young patients (under 25) may retard their emotional growth and is "morally wrong" according to some UK clinicians.

At least that's a recent BBC headline that might be more link-baiting than actual research. 

According to the UK's Journal of Aesthetic Nursing, clinicians say there is a growing trend for under-25s to seek the wrinkle-smoothing injections but research suggests "frozen faces" could stop young people from learning how to express emotions fully. Additionally, a leading body of UK plastic surgeons says injecting teenagers for cosmetic reasons is "morally wrong".

What's going on here?

Nurse practitioner Helen Collier, who carried out the research, says reality TV shows and celebrity culture are driving young people to idealize the "inexpressive frozen face."

But she points to a well-known psychological theory, the facial feedback hypothesis, that suggests adolescents learn how best to relate to people by mimicking their facial expressions.

She says: "As a human being our ability to demonstrate a wide range of emotions is very dependent on facial expressions.

"Emotions such as empathy and sympathy help us to survive and grow into confident and communicative adults."

But she warns that a "growing generation of blank-faced" young people could be harming their ability to correctly convey their feelings.

"If you wipe those expressions out, this might stunt their emotional and social development," she says.


Dr Michael Lewis, a researcher in psychology at Cardiff University, says: "The expressions we make on our face affect the emotions we feel.

"We smile because we are happy, but smiling also makes us happy.

"Treatment with drugs like Botox prevents the patient from being able to make a particular expression and can therefore have an effect on our learning to feel emotions naturally."

Rajiv Grover, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, says: "Injecting teenagers with Botox for cosmetic purposes is morally wrong and something that no ethical practitioner would do.

Of course this might have been morea bout Ms Collier's presentation at the Clinical Cosmetic and Reconstructive Expo and generating a little visibility for both the presenter and the venue.

I tend to agree with many of the premises here in that cosmetic treatments simply to cater to perceived imperfections for younger patients just shouldn't be performed, but it seems a stretch to say that the Botox is the cause rather that the effect. In the patients that I've seen that fall into this age group and are looking for cosmetic treatments there are already many factors that are contributing to this behavior in the first place rather that flowing from previous treatments.

Body dysmporphic disorder in the young is something that every cosmetic practioner runs into from time to time. It's up to each clinician to understand what the patient psychology is and how best to address it. Blaming the actual treatments is overly simplistic in my view.

Reader Comments (5)

Linkbait? I had to look that up but it seems clear that this 'research' is designed more to get press than shed light on a really difficult area of medicine that every clinician deals with. BDD, especially in the young, can be devastating and pulling out a single treatment like Botox is silly. Not having seen this talk or research I can't really offer a valid opinion but I hope it was done in this way to really educate and not just get some press.

09.17 | Unregistered CommenterJSDM

I think that this is an entirely appropriate area of research. We've all seen doctors who are only too ready to take the money even if the treatment is not appropriate or ethical. There needs to be a bright light shining on anyone who is treating teens with Botox for something (wrinkles) that they clearly don't have. These are treatments for imaginary ailments.

09.17 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy RN

Rubbish. I had to get a little British expression out.
I have to consider that Dr.Lewis has never been involved in proper Botox administration. Under normal circumstances the only areas affected are the forehead and in brow depressor function. THe patient can smile the patient can make different expressions the only ones diminished would be surprise with brow elevation and scowling which I don't believe makes one feel better.
BDD is a different situation and needs to be assessed individually. I seriously doubt that botox would stunt emotional growth in the young. Also they mentioned 25 yo I do not know anyone injecting teens.

09.17 | Unregistered Commentergm

I'm in complete agreement with GM. This kind of brow beating should be reserved for something more important than British plastic surgeons trying to scare-monger. (Of course it could have been the reporter. They are know to ask rather leading questions to try and get contentious responses.)

09.18 | Unregistered CommenterLeoDr

I'm of the opinion that you may be doing something as an advertising gimic and still end up doing the right thing. With the growth of dermal fillers and Botox in the EU there have been the advent of some less than ethical practices and practitioners. Taking a stand and saying that patients who don't need it shouldn't be treated -- especially when young -- is worth stating in order to make the demarcations clear.

09.18 | Unregistered CommenterGrecco MD

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