Will Botox Leave You Emotionless?

MakenzieR on 25 Apr 2011 at 9:00am

A new study claims wrinkle reversal with Botox may hinder your ability to perceive other's emotions, as reported in the journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science. But not all experts agree.

As the most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure in 2010, it's no secret by now that Botox works by paralyzing facial muscles, occasionally resulting in a frozen and emotionless appearance (if not administered properly). This inability to show facial emotions is often mimicked and mocked in movies and TV. But this new research suggests it may actually affect how we interpret the emotions of others.

According to David Neal, lead author of the research and a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, part of how people read emotions is by mimicking facial expressions. He says "If muscular signals from the face to the brain are dampened, you're less able to read emotions."

Botox before and after photosFor example, if you can't physically mimic the slight frown on your partner's face when they tell you "nothing's wrong," you may not pick up that something actually is wrong.

This same paralysis may also decrease the ability to feel your own emotions, according to a study last year at Columbia University.

So should those who don't want to deal with feelings run out and juice up with Botox? And should the emotionally driven swear off the needle forever?

"Just because you can measure something in the lab does not mean that it is significant in real life," says Fresno Oculoplastic Surgeon Dr. Peter T. Truong. "We call this difference statistical significance (measurable under certain conditions) vs. clinical significance (noticeably impacts your life)."

Adds Niagara Falls Dermatologic Surgeon Dr. Kevin C. Smith "In the real world, it is common for people being properly treated with Botox [as opposed to being grossly over treated] to note that after Botox they are able to express themselves more accurately because they are not making unwanted or excessive facial expressions which could give others the wrong impression."

In other words: don't freak out over this news. If you are considering or already getting Botox, just make sure you don't over-do it and you can still emote as well as any Oscar-winning actor. 

What do you think? Have you noticed an emotional difference since starting Botox?

Botox deadens emotion perception cartoon

Photo credit: RealSelf user Z, michael_reuter on flickr.com

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Comments (4)

Awesome comments from the RealSelf Facebook page:

DC Facial Plastic Surgeon Dr. Houtan Chaboki: "My Botox patients have not reported any problems, in fact they are much happier with Botox treatments."

Memphis Plastic Surgeon Dr. Peter A. Aldea: "Another typical dog bites man - First Wives Club attention grabbing study. If Botox is administered properly and if it is customized to each person's needs a "frozen face" NEVER happens. Frozen faces are much more commonly seen in Poker competitions and in unfortunate people with Parkinson's Disease than in Botox patients, but, why let facts and reality get in the way of a sure attention grabbing article for our ADD dominated microsecond attention spanned audiences??"

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Beyond what this article mentions, there are lots of complexities in several studies of Botox and emotions. It might actually make people happier, not deaden emotions. My quick analysis of the subject is here: http://bit.ly/dJwfDH
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Wow, interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing it here.

Personally, I like the idea that Botox will not only make you look younger but also feel happier. Of course some happiness is probably a result of the looking younger!

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Agreed, Mackenzie! I've found that my Botox patients feel happier when they feel that they look better. Collin's analysis is interesting.

The anecdotal reports of Botox treatments decreasing certain types of migraines can contribute to happiness, too. Headaches aren't known to put ANYONE in a happy mood.

At M.D. Laser Studio, we have a "No Frozen Face Guarantee." We strive for natural looking results with both Botox & Dysport, as well as dermal fillers. Any good, ethical doctor would.
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