Is Botox a Replacement for Psychotherapy and Counselling?

Does Freezing our Expressions Mean an End to Psychotherapy and Counselling Exploration?

In March 11th edition of The Guardian Mental Health, Jay Watts wrote the following:

“The publication of a new book, The Face of Emotion: How Botox Affects Our Moods and Relationships, by dermatologist and MD Eric Finzi, together with several recent academic studies on the effects of Botox on mood, have generated a spate of phone calls this week from beauty editors to psychologists like me. Is it true, we are asked, that injecting Botox can actually change the way we feel, transforming not just our body image but also the very emotions we experience within ourselves?

The new studies revive the old “motion is emotion” theory to suggest if a woman cannot make certain expressions – such as frowning – she is less likely to feel discontent or depressed. Her brain, the argument goes, will not read muscular movement associated with anger as present, so she will not feel angry. Aesthetic procedures that freeze our expressions can thus affect our emotional lives. Should the depressed be reaching for the Botox? Can facial filler really make us happier?

When parents threaten their grimacing children “if the wind changes, your face will stay like that forever”, they offer it as a threat. Yet the aesthetics industry would see “staying like that forever” as a good thing, providing the face stuck to is one that does not show any sign of ageing, distress or – in this new wave of propaganda – anger.

Most of us think that our facial expressions reflect our feelings, experiences, age, and perhaps when we last went to buy makeup. We also tend to think people’s faces express their more general take on the world. The comedian Jack Dee, for example, has talked about how his “hangdog expression” is seen by most as saying something about his outlook. “The motion is emotion” theory argues the opposite. It is our facial expression that dictates how we actually feel, rather than revealing an underlying state. If a face is frowning – an expression often associated with anger – we may recognise this association and begin to actually feel angry inside. Others may then react to us as if we were angry, producing a reinforcement cycle where people frown back at us and we are caught in a perpetual spiral of rage.

This theory goes back to the early 20th century, when psychologist and philosopher William James argued that “a man does not cry because he is sad, he is sad because he cries”. Emotion here is seen as a reaction in the body – a set of muscular and chemical events. Recent studies have revived these ideas, claiming that freezing emotional expression through using Botox has a positive effect on depression. Journalists are being briefed that Botox may even prove a universal panacea for depression as a facial motion previously associated with anger is no longer possible, which will make us all happier. Should we throw out the SSRIs and rush to Harley Street?

Maybe not yet. All this is based on a very simplistic understanding of emotion. Within the laboratory, a face with a frown may be read as quickly as an angry one, yet our real-world experiences of each other are nearly always in interaction. Our brains pick up cues of how someone else might be thinking and feeling on a second-by-second basis. We do not see a couple of frown lines, a couple of furrows and process “sad face”, “happy face” but rather pick up cues from a mixture of facial expression, gait, voice cadence, posture, context, eye movement, as well as the fantasies and projections we bring with us to every social exchange.

The new “Botox theory” ignores this complexity, seeing emotion as little more than the awareness of a set of physical reactions. It also neglects something crucial described by writers for centuries: the horror of the uncanny. We experience this when we see an actress or woman of a certain age and feel that something is wrong. Perhaps she has the plumped out cheeks of early youth, the ironed-out forehead of Botox, yet also middle-age crow’s feet. If the work is good, we may not know explicitly what is wrong, but we sense instantly that something is awry. There is a gap between the mask we see and what we expect to be in its place.

This will have an immediate effect on how we then relate to that person. Someone may be telling us the saddest story, but if the facial cues are dissonant, we won’t be quite present either. Colleagues tell me of their feeling “something is really wrong” with new patients because they find it difficult to attune to what is going on for them, only later to find out the patient has regular Botox. And this, of course, generates its own paranoia: “Does he know?”, “Is she treating me differently?”, “Can people tell?”.

The misappropriation of the “motion is emotion” theory by a plastic surgery industry that wants to get rid of our angry faces to make us happier forecloses the real issue. People can tell when something is not right with facial expression, and that will leave women feeling more alienated, more alone, more paranoid than ever. Botox might block us from making the expressions we used to make when angry, but it can never get rid of our internal worlds. If there is anger there, why not think about it rather than try to excise it? The Botox route, fuelled by questionable “science”, denies the legitimacy of a woman’s anger, as if de-ageing and depoliticising had become one and the same thing.”

Just because we do not show an expression does not mean that the cause of depressed or upsetting feelings has gone away. Sometimes help to discover and understand these causes is needed and professional psychotherapy support is required.

The three psychotherapists at The cavendish Psychotherapy Practice at 121 Harley Street, London, are professional, experienced, confidential and ethical and can work with you to uncover the roots of your difficulties.

Men are Less likely to Seek Psychotherapy or Counselling than Women

Men are More Reluctant to Seek Psychotherapy and Counselling help than Women

In a recent article published in the BACP’s monthly magazine, ‘Therapy today’, Colin Penning writes, “Many people think men’s emotional literacy and ability to articulate their feelings is less than that of women. The question then is, do these assumptions about men reflect a stereotype or a reality? This was the question that Relate and the Men’s Health Forum set out to explore in their new report Try to See it My Way.

We know that men are more reluctant than women to seek support and advice when relationships run into difficulties. Far fewer men use telephone advice and helpline services. We also know that men are less likely to access counselling services generally. Men make up just 36 per cent of referrals to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. They are also under-represented in relationship support services: just 44 per cent of Relate’s clients are men.

So why can’t (or won’t) men seek help for emotional problems? The first and most obvious answer is that men are socialised not to admit to vulnerability, which is a prerequisite of securing help. The second is that maybe we aren’t offering the kind of support that men can relate to and that they find helpful.

The report suggests work is a key factor. Men’s tendency to work longer hours can cause relationship problems and conflicts around the life–work balance; financial difficulties can increase pressure on the man, who is often still the primary breadwinner in the family.

One of the key findings of the report is that men and women have very different approaches to communication. Insights generated by two focus groups of Relate counsellors found that men have a tendency to want to ‘solve problems’ while women want to discuss change and understand why things have happened. So men are coming to counselling with unrealistic expectations.

But the Relate counsellors told us that men may have become more open to the idea of relationship counselling in recent years. And they told us there may be things we can do to reach out to and engage men in taking better care of their own emotional health.

Our report makes a series of recommendations. Some are to national Government around raising men’s awareness of the importance of emotional health and making personal, social and health education a statutory requirement in schools. ”

Admitting to finding things difficult and seeking help is not a weakness. The therapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice have many years experience working through issues presented by male patients in order to discover what lies at the root of their difficulties.

The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice is found at 121 Harley Street, London.

Boredom can be Explored with Psychotherapy and Counselling

Self Destructive Behaviour can be the Result of Boredom and can be Explored with Psychotherapy and Counselling

Dr John Eastwood, a psychologist at York University, Toronto and joint author of ‘The Unengaged Mind’, a major new paper on the theory of boredom believes that boredom, although common, is neither trivial nor benign.

Boredom, he points out, has been associated with increased drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, depression and anxiety, and an increased risk of making mistakes. Although mistakes at work may not have dire consequences for most of us, for people with jobs such as air controllers or pilots, boredom leading to the lack of concentration can be very serious.

In his report, Eastwood states boredom to be “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.” He further states, “All instances of boredom involve a failure of attention, and attention is what you are using now to blot out the plethora of stimuli around you while you focus awareness on a given topic.”

Attention involves three functions:

1. One has to be suitably aroused so as not to fall asleep

2. We have an orientation system that can cut in. e.g. you can still respond to movement in the corner of your eye if a car approaches as you cross the road

3. We have an executive system that oversees our mental activity so that we can stay engaged even if the task is not interesting

Boredom occurs when any of these functions break down.

As an innevitable experience, boredom can be seen as positive. Dr Esther Priyadharshini a senior lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia, says “We can’t avoid boredom. It’s an inevitable human emotion. We have to accept it as legitimate and find ways it can be harnessed. We all need downtime, away from the constant bombardment of stimulation. There’s no need to be in a frenzy of activity at all times.” She claims that it can stimulate creativity as a signal for change.

However, for some it may not have such positive outcomes. Those who have suffered extreme trauma are more likely to complain of boredom than others. It is thought that this is because the person emotionally shuts down, thereby finding it harder to work out what they need. They may be left with free-floating desire, without knowing what to pin it on. This lack of emotional awareness is known as alexithymia and can affect anyone.

Frustrated dreamers who have not realised their goals can expend all their emotional energy on hating themselves or the world, and find they have no attention left for anything else. Bungee jumpers and thrill-seekers may also be particularly susceptible to boredom, as they feel the world is not moving fast enough for them. They constantly need to top up their high levels of arousal and are always searching for stimulation from their environment.

Eastwood states that, “Boredom isn’t a nice feeling, so we have an urge to eradicate it and cope with it in a counterproductive way. This may be what drives people to destructive behaviours such as gambling, overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, though research is needed to tease out whether there’s a direct causal link”.

“The problem is we’ve become passive recipients of stimulation. “We say, ‘I’m bored, so I’ll put on the TV or go to a loud movie.’ But boredom is like quicksand: the more we thrash around, the quicker we’ll sink.”

Psychotherapy and Counselling is a useful way to explore self destructive behaviour patterns that could be the result of boredom. The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice, comprising three female therapists can be found at 121 Harley Street, London.

Psychotherapy Support for Actors

Research Shows Psychological Vulnerability in Actors

A recent study by California State University looked at the psychology of the sort of people who choose to become actors. The results imply that these people tend to be imaginative but also emotionally vulnerable.

Paula Thomson and S. Victoria Jaque wrote in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts journal that “Our study adds to the body of research that suggests there is a psychological cost for participants engaged in the creative arts”.

Their study looked at 41 professional actors living in Cape Town. Toronto and Los Angeles and compared them with people from other artistic groups such as athletes and art lovers.

What they discovered was that, “Even though there was no difference between the two groups for past traumatic events, more actors were unable to maintain narrative coherence when discussing memories of past trauma and loss.” The actors struggled when attempting to discuss past traumas which the researchers felt suggested that they find it harder to resolve these traumas.

The researchers illustrated how the actors had an increased ability to “remain engaged, regulated and coherent during the interview process”, however, they were also more likely to show signs of confusion, prolonged silence or “unsuccessful failures to deny a traumatic or loss event”. Thomson and Jaque argue that this suggests “a greater vulnerability for psychological distress”.

Thomson and Jaque give a note of caution to those thinking of an acting career in therapeutic terms: “Actors may have enhanced their imagination through the practice of acting or they may have entered a career that supports their heightened predisposition for fantasy.”

For those who do choose to become actors, there is psychological support available in the form of talking therapies such as psychotherapy and counselling. This can help develop an understanding of past traumas and resolve feelings surrounding them.

The psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice on London’s Harley Street, work with people of all backgrounds, including members of the performing arts who struggle with emotional and psychological problems.

Alcohol Dependency Linked to Mental Health Disorders

Psychotherapy Support for Alcohol Dependency

Research performed in Australia and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry showed that people diagnosed with mental health issues such as depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders are more likely to become dependent upon alcohol.

Data taken from the 2007 Australian Mental Health and Well Being Survey that looked at 8841 participants illuminated some worrying trends. Those participants diagnosed with depression within the last five years were five times more likely to develop alcohol dependency than the general population. Those diagnosed with bipolar were seven times more likely to become dependent and those with anxiety disorders were three times more likely.

Lead researcher, Dr. Wenbin Liang said, “Our study shows that patients with a pre-existing diagnosis of affective and anxiety disorders are at higher risk of alcohol use problems. It shows that we should view mental health disorders as a risk factor for future alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence”.

The therapists at The Harley Street Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice have experience working with alcohol dependency issues as a part of other mental health problems. They work with you to help understand why alcohol has become an important but worrying part of life.

The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice is found at 121, Harley Street, London.

Psychotherapy for Professional’s Hidden Addictions

As Professional’s Struggle with Hidden Addiction, Psychotherapy is an Important Step Forward

At an international conference in Ireland this weekend, attention was drawn to the increasing problem of alcohol and substance abuse amongst professionals, particularly those in health care. These professionals function at very high levels which often belies the fact that they are resorting to addictive behaviour to maintain this high functioning.

Research has suggested that 15-24% of lawyers suffer from alcoholism at some time during their career, whilst the BMA (British Medical Association) estimates that one in fifteen health care professionals develop an addiction problem whilst doctors are three times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver due to drinking than the general population.

This worrying progression came to light partly due to the increase in ‘rehab tourism’, the process of professionals seeking help abroad for their addictions in order to keep others around them from finding out.

One spokes person from a substance abuse clinic in Thailand stated, “We are seeing a lot of professionals coming in, particularly from London. In Britain absolutely there is a silent mass of professionals who are functioning, in terms of that they haven’t lost everything, but they are in workplaces where you really wouldn’t want them to be”.

The stigma still attached to addiction and the shame felt by the sufferers often prevents them taking action to deal with their difficulties, such as consulting their GP or seeing a psychotherapist or counsellor.

In an interview in The Observer, Rory O’Conner, the UK co-ordinator of health support programs for dentists and veterinary surgeons said , “Health professionals are generally not good at seeking help for themselves, mainly because they see it very much as their role to help others. There is also immense shame, a stigma still attached to a perceived weakness like addiction”.

The reasons for the increase in addiction amongst this group can be varied. There could be a drinking or drugs culture within the working environment that is overlooked by the organisation. The stress of the job itself may cause a person to turn to substances to help them cope. This can be exacerbated if the sufferer feels unable to turn to their peers or family for help due to shame, being seen as weak or fearing the security of their job.

Seeking help from a psychotherapist or counsellor is an important step towards dealing with addiction. The psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice have successfully worked with professionals suffering from addiction. They provide a safe and confidential space in which to explore what lies behind the addictive behaviour and offer non judgemental support and insight.

The three psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice work from their Clinic at 121, Harley Street, London.

Internet Addiction, Depression and Psychotherapy

Internet Addiction has been linked to Depression. Psychotherapy can Intervene

Research performed by British psychologists at Leeds University have found evidence of a link between excessive internet use and depression. In their psychology journal they say that people within a small group categorised as internet addicts are more likely to be depressed than those not considered to be addicted.

Their research using a questionaire based study and the Beck Depression Inventory and involving 1319 young people and adults reported that of those who took part 1.4% were internet addicts.

Dr. Catriona Morrison, the lead author of the article regarding this research said, “Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first – are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?”. “What is clear is that, for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”

The age range of all participants was between 16 and 51 years, with a mean age of 21.24. The mean age of the internet addicts was 18.3 years and 70% of them were men.

They also discovered that addicts spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities.

“This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction,” Morrison said.

She goes on to say, “We now need to consider the wider societal implications of this relationship and establish clearly the effects of excessive internet use on mental health”.

Internet addiction is a serious issue for the modern age. It can have detrimenntal effects upon one’s relationships and therefore effect all walks of life, work, social, family etc.

At The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice on Harley Street in London, the therapists have worked with sufferers of addiction in order to help them gain a better understanding of what lies behind it and support them as they work through it.

Internet Porn Addiction: Can Psychotherapy Help?

Psychotherapists Might Consider 10 Hours p.w. Too Much

Internet Porn Addiction: A Quarter of Men Surveyed Worried About the Amount of Porn they are watching.

A recent survey carried out by the Tavistock and Portman clinic, revealed that 25% of men believe they are viewing too much porn. The ease at which porn can be viewed at no cost, may be the key to the rise in the amount being watched.  4% of men surveyed said they were watching more than 10 hours of porn per week – a rate that therapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in London would consider problematic.

“Someone watching ten hours of porn per week could be heading towards compulsive and addictive behaviour” says Rebecca Barrie, psychotherapist at the Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice.   “It’s likely that someone who’s watching that amount of porn could be struggling in other areas of their lives. It would almost certainly be affecting their sexual relationships – influencing their sexual behaviour, it might also be causing concern in other ares of their lives – work might begin to suffer.

When use of porn is compulsive and the individual continues to engage in it despite negative consequecies in realtionships or other areas of life, addiction may be setting in.

It might be important for those who feel their casual use of porn is escalating to reassess their use,  and ask themselves why they are needing to escape into the fantasy worlds that porn sites provide.

Counselling and psychotherapy can provide an excellent support for anyone who is concerned about their use of porn.  The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in London offers descrete, confidential and professional psychotherapy to those looking to explore their compulsions or addictions.

The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice is based in Harley Street, Central London.

Psychotherapy as an Intervention Before Addiction

Psychotherapy and Counselling can help with Addiction before it becomes a Real Problem

 

People who become addicted to something, whether its drinking, shopping, gambling or any other form of addiction, often say that they did not notice their dependence upon these things creeping up on them.

There are many reasons why a person may start these behaviours; a way to relax, better economic circumstances, treating ones self, socialising or just fun. All these are very valid reasons but the problems arise when partaking in these ‘recreational’ pursuits becomes habitual and the thought of not having them in ones life becomes unthinkable.

Life can then start to revolve around the addiction instead of the drinking, gambling etc being just a part of life.

A person can become defensive or secretive about this behaviour which can result in isolation and loneliness. They become dependant upon the addiction to get them through stressful and difficult situations.

Only feeling relaxed with a drink in your hand, or feeling more comfortable being online than being with friends, spending lots of time thinking about and planning your next gambling session or shopping trip, mood changes, sleeping more or less than usual, secretiveness and lying can be signs of an over dependence upon something and a journey towards addiction.

However, it is often found that addiction to something is a symptom of more deep seated emotional difficulties, about which the addicted person may not be aware. The addictive behaviour allows the person to feel better for some time, but if the real cause of the persons unhappiness is not explored and confronted, the feelings of happiness gained by the addictive behaviour can become less satisfying and so the person may drink more, shop more, gamble more, take more drugs, in order to keep trying to numb the unhappiness.

Psychotherapy and Counselling with the professional therapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in London can help you intervene in this behaviour before it becomes an addiction. Your psychotherapist will explore with you the difficult feelings and emotions that lie beneath the behaviour so that you gain a better understanding of why you are becoming addicted in order for you to make healthy changes and arrest the problem before it escalates.

Sex Addiction Officially Recognised as a Mental Health Disorder

The American manual of psychological disorders, the DSM  (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorder) has, for the first time, included sex addiction as a mental health disorder. The Manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association is the book used by clinicians to define and identify the types and thresholds of mental health problems. The inclusion of sex addiction in the book coincides with the increase numbers of people coming to psychotherapy and counselling at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice, presenting  with  problems relating to sexual compulsion.

Sex addiction can be as destructive as other common addictions, breaking relationships apart, destroying careers and the lives of those for whom sexual compulsion becomes out of control. It is no coincidence that sexual addiction is becoming recognised now, as the internet is increasingly impacting upon our lives. Porn, escorts and dating are a single click away from us all – making moves into the, often anonymous, sexual arena very easy.

Psychotherapy or counselling can help those with sexual addiction or compulsion. At The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice, the therapists are experienced at working with sexual addiction and help sufferers find the root cause of their problems and help them move forward with new understanding and behaviours. The counsellors and psychotherapists at the Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice are professional, non judgemental and offer their patients a confidential and supportive environment. The Psychotherapy Practice is in Harley Street, Central London.