Eating disorders discussed on Radio 4 tonight

Doctor Mark Porter on Anorexia…

… on Radio 4 tonight at 9pm, when he talks about the possible issues behind the eating disorder on the weekly Insde Health programme discussing and de-bunking common misapprehensions on health issues. On the trailer heard today, he stated that the causes were often assumed to be obsession with weight and image but – as we see on our website page, newly updated last month on our website (see our page on eating disorders & anorexia) – there are often many other reasons behind the issue.

Of course we don’t know what he’ll be discussing and/or concluding but we’re sure it’ll be interesting listening.

For more details about the Inside Health programme, click here and explore.

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.

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.

Women’s Mental Health Crisis and Psychotherapy

Women are struggling with Depression and Anxiety


Platform 51, formally The Young Women’s Christian Association have recently done a study of more than 2000 women and girls in England and Wales that showed that almost a third of women over 18 have taken anti depressants.

13% of women experiencing mental health difficulties have had to give up their jobs, whilst 44% have taken time off work.

An NHS report showed that about 12% of men showed evidence of a common mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety whilst the percentage for women was 20%.

In order to cope with these difficult emotions, women are turning to potentially damaging behaviour, such as isolating themselves from their friends and family. More than a quarter in the study drank regularly and too much, one in five had built up debt and one in ten had self harmed (this percentage rose to 35% of women between the ages of 18 and 24). 30% had been emotionally or physically abused and one in four admitted to having felt suicidal as a result. However, one in three women have never sought professional help. Those who did seek support felt that their doctors were too willing to prescribe drugs and not suggest alternative means of support, such as psychotherapy or counselling.

A spokesperson from Platform 51 said, “Our study reveals generations of women in crisis…women are often the linchpins of their families and their communities, and if three in five of them aren’t meeting their potential, they loose out, their family looses out and so does the wider society”.

Psychotherapy and counselling provided by a professional psychotherapist can help someone struggling with depression and anxiety find out what lies behind these overwhelming feelings. The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice, based in Harley Street in London provides a safe and non judgemental space for you to look into your emotional world, gaining a better understanding of it and thereby empowering you to take control over it. 

Early Psychotherapeutic Intervention

The Government wants to nip mental health issues in the bud; to treat anxious and depressed children and young people before they develop long-term mental health problems.  What does a psychotherapist think?

This is a good concept. Early intervention in mental health problems is important and the right kind of intervention can prevent long-term difficulties. It’s not always easy to spot mental health issues in our children though. Symptoms can go un-noticed. A child who withdraws into their bedroom for days on end just wanting to play on the Xbox or Play Station could go ignored and their problems put down to teenage behaviour. It maybe though, that the child is depressed, struggling in relationships perhaps and is withdrawing as a symptom of his or her depression.

A child who over eats, or who under eats, could be thought of  as ‘enjoying their food’ or ‘fad dieting’. Prolonged over eating, or under eating, would suggest eating disorder. Badly behaved children, angry or destructive, could be acting out; externalizing painful feelings.

Children need to be listened to: to have a safe space where their feelings and fears and stresses can be expressed. It’s hard sometimes to find the time, in our busy working lives, to really listen to our children or to observe their behaviour. But it’s important that we try.

The Government is recommending CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which, while sometimes effective in the short term, does not actually tackle the underlying causes of the anxiety or depression. If the government are to really halt the increase in mental health problems, among the young,  it seems important that a range of psychological therapies are available, tailored to suit the needs of each individual.

At The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice, in Harley Street, the therapists practice a range of effective talking therapies; all designed to tackle the underlying cause of the problems patients present with. The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice is currently working with many young people suffering with eating disorders, depression and anxiety. 

Therapy and Eating Disorders: Psychotherapy Helps

Counselling & Therapy Can Get To The Causes of Eating Disorders

Psychotherapy can help those suffering with eating disorders understand the underlying causes of their difficulties with food. It is rare that anorexia and bulimia just happen as a result of dieting. With most eating disorders there is an underlying cause.

Often the cause underlying eating disorders is relational. Those suffering with eating disorders often have difficult and complex relationships with parents. An individual may be for example a highly dependent person by nature, but someone who at the same time is terrified of their own dependent feelings. They may equate dependency with weakness or helplessness. They may occasionally develop highly dependent relationships but will then pull away, terrified of the possibility of being dependent. The anorexic or bulimic individual may not be aware of any relationship issues they have with people, but use food as the focus when acting out their relationship problems.

In therapy, relationships with others can be explored and the underlying causes of eating disorders discovered and worked through.  The therapists and counsellors at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in London are experienced at working with people suffering with eating disorders and helping them find different ways of relating to food and to those around them.