Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is becoming common in the United States. A disorder that typically begins in teenage years, SAD is characterized by a high level of fear in social situations causing isolation and extreme emotional distress. Also called social phobia, individuals suffering from SAD may have few or no social relationships, making them feel ashamed or alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), SAD affects about 15 million American adults. While traditional treatment for social anxiety disorder involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy, scientists have been exploring alternatives to treat this mental illness. One such initiative has been undertaken by researchers at the George Washington University (GWU). They are examining the possibility of using Botox, a wrinkle reducing substance, to treat SAD.
The study is aimed at testing the ability of botulinum toxin A, commercially known as Botox, to deal with social anxiety symptoms. The research is being led by Eric Finzi and Daniel Lieberman, both from the GWU. The researchers want to establish whether Botox injected into the frown muscles would assist in reducing social anxiety.
Study first step to finding new ways to treat anxiety
The researchers plan to recruit 40 volunteers diagnosed with SAD. The participants must take an online questionnaire to determine if they qualify for the study and then visit with a psychiatrist and a research coordinator to verify the diagnosis in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at GW Medical Faculty Associates. Those who qualify will be transported to the Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center for the Botox injection. For the study, the university is still recruiting volunteers. As per the researchers, while there are not many options for treating SAD, the study is the first step to finding a new way to help anxiety patients.
According to Lieberman, SAD responds well to treatment and for many people, the new method could be life changing. The researchers believe that paralyzing the frown muscles tends to quiet down a part of the brain that amplifies negative emotions. As per Finzi, the part of the brain called amygdala, which is involved in depression, is also involved in SAD and if Botox helps with depression, it could also help SAD.
Botox and depression
While Botox is a medication that is commonly used in cosmetic procedures to reduce wrinkles, it is also used to treat people with migraines and other medical illnesses. In 2014, Finzi and psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal published the largest randomized trial on the effect of Botox on depression. During the trial, the researchers found that more than half of the subjects suffering from moderate to severe depression showed a substantial improvement. The study showed that Botox might help relieve depression both by itself as well as when it is needed to boost other treatments.
The reason Botox worked for depression might be because muscles between the eyebrows causing frown lines can stimulate parts of the brain that are overactive in depression. Therefore, using Botox in that part of the area might be helpful in reducing the negative brain stimulation.
Road to recovery
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 40 million people in the U.S. aged 18 years or older – 18 percent of the population – are suffering from anxiety disorders. While treatable, only about one-third of those suffering from anxiety disorders receive adequate treatment.
For those suffering from any kind of mental disorder including anxiety or depression, it is time to get professional help. Get in touch with experts at the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to find the best mental health counseling programs for your disorder. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with representatives to know about the finest mental health rehabilitation centers near you.