Botox as an Antidepressant?

There have been a couple of recent studies that suggest that neutralising key facial muscles with Botox can reduce the symptoms of depression.

In a recent 24-week randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study, done by Michelle Magid, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas, 30 participants with depressive symptoms were randomized and given injections of Botox or a placebo between the eyebrows.

The men were injected with 39 units of botulinum and the women were injected with 29 units. At week 12, the placebo group crossed over to treatment, and the treatment group crossed over to placebo. Participants were evaluated at weeks 0, 3, 6, 12, 15, 18, and 24. The primary outcome was a reduction from baseline of at least 50% in the 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score.

In a study in the in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Eric Finzi, a cosmetic dermatologist, and Norman Rosenthal, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, randomly assigned a group of 74 patients with major depression to receive either Botox or saline injections in the forehead muscles that enable us to frown.

Six weeks after the injection, 52 percent of the subjects who got Botox showed relief from depression, compared with only 15 percent of those who received the saline placebo.

These studies are part of a growing body of research that seems to show that neutralising the muscles that allow us to express unhappiness and sadness brings relief to some people with depression. 

I think it’s great that researchers are looking for alternative uses for Botox, such as relief for people who suffer from migraine headaches and depression.

The facial feedback hypothesis isn’t new. It goes back to Charles Darwin, who believed the “outward signs of an emotion intensifies it” and “the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions.” The psychologist William James agreed: “Refuse to express a passion, and it dies.” The idea is that you’re not just frowning because you’re sad; you’re also sad because you’re frowning. Emotions aren’t emotions at first; they’re thoughts, and the physiological reactions to those thoughts shape and magnify how we feel.

In the 1970s, psychologist James Laird performed a clever experiment: He tricked people into animating smile muscles or frown muscles without implying any sort of emotion, and they reported feeling happier when a smile was enacted, and sadder when a frown was. In regular life, the free expression of emotions increases the strength of the feeling. Conversely, reducing the expression is one way of reducing or perhaps even completely halting a feeling.

There is also the common-sense theory that if you’re not frowning more people will want to talk to you. As David Matsumoto, a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University and a renowned expert in expression, says, “If your expression changes, then of course how people are perceiving you will change.”

While all of the above is good news, the importance of facial expressions should not be underestimated as we relate to each other and empathise with each other. At LK Aesthetics we like to consult with the patient and really see how they express themselves and see what should be preserved as intrinsic to how that person communicates with their face. As in all things, everything is good in moderation.

In this instance as a subtle tool we would leave all of your other facial expressions and muscles as-is and concentrate on the Glabella lines (frown lines) between your eyes. 

Call (021) 484-3444 for a free no obligation consultation to see if this is something that could work for you.