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Can Botox reduce social anxiety?

By Tim Sandle     Feb 12, 2017 in Health
Atlanta - The cosmetic wrinkle reducer, Botox, is being examined in the context of treating various medical conditions. In one example, George Washington University is recruiting volunteers for a new study testing Botox to treat social anxiety.
The psychological condition social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) is a recognized medical condition affecting around 1 in 10 of of adults (at least in the U.S. where the National Comorbidity Survey Replication identified around 20 million U.S. citizens with the disorder).
Social anxiety disorder often begins in the teenage years. It is characterized by a high level of fear in social situations, which leads to emotional distress and isolation. Physical symptoms often include excessive blushing, excess sweating, trembling, palpitations, and nausea. Adding to these, stammering may be present, along with rapid speech. Furthermore, panic attacks can also occur under intense fear and discomfort. This can affect work, community and romantic relationships.
To study the condition further and to explore novel ways to treat it, The George Washington University is set to recruit volunteers for a new study. The study will test the ability of botulinum toxin A, commercially known as Botox, to address symptoms of social anxiety. Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The toxin prevents the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from axon endings at the neuromuscular junction; the result of this is flaccid paralysis. In nature, infection with the bacterium is very dangerous and it causes botulism. However, at controlled levels the toxin can be used in medicine, cosmetics, and research. the most widely-known use is with the cosmetics industry where injections of the toxin are used to temporarily reduce the appearance of skin ageing.
This new research using the toxin is being spearheaded by Dr. Eric Finzi and Professor Daniel Lieberman, both of whom work at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences. The aim of the research will be to determine if Botox injected into the frown muscles (the muscles that pull the eyebrows together to produce a worried look) will help with social anxiety. The toxin has previous been used in studies to help to treat depression
In a statement provided to Digital Journal, Dr. Finzi said: “The same part of the brain involved in depression, the amygdala, is also involved in social anxiety disorder. It is my hope this common and debilitating disorder, social anxiety, will be helped by Botox treatment."
Here paralyzing the frown muscles seems to quieten down a part of the brain that amplifies negative emotions. This approach if successful, would be more rapid than established methods like cognitive behavioral therapy. The results of the study could be made available later this year.
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