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Botox® for Depression?

The aesthetic industry is currently taking a wait-and-see approach about the startling claims that Botox® not only helps keep you looking younger, but can also alleviate symptoms of depression.

It’s not a a huge stretch for anyone to acknowledge that if they improve their appearance, they generally will have a positive association with this improvement. 

botox for depression

There are a number of studies suggesting the validity of the claim, however, not surprisingly, not everyone is convinced that the well-known beauty treatment is the answer, or even an answer to depression.

An Emotive Feedback Loop?

Several studies, including those by Dr. Kruger and M. Axel Wollmer, MD, from Hamburg, Germany, and also renowned derma-surgeon, Eric Finzi, MD, found that chronically depressed patients, who were resistant to traditional treatment methods, noticed an improvement in symptoms typically attributed to depression, as a direct consequence of having Botox.

Participants were administered Botox® to treat frown lines found above the nose, and in between the eyebrows; the results concluded that many reported a substantial difference in their moods, with a noticeable reduction in symptoms associated with depression. 

Certainly, this is an experience repeated often at aesthetic medical practices and the anecdotal evidence would suggest there is some validity to this type of claim.

The preliminary findings from the studies seem to suggest that the restricted movement in facial muscles caused by Botox® plays an integral part in alleviating depressive symptoms. 

The researchers claim this is because our facial expressions send signals to our brains, which reinforce the emotions we are feeling; for example, when a frown is transmitted to the brain, a negative emotion follows.

Botox® can limit movement around the brow area, and according to the studies, this then blocks the facial expressions associated with anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger; this, in turn, prevents the corresponding emotions.

On Balance, Expressions Don’t Say it All

The theory that facial expressions compound emotions is not a new one; it’s long been believed that expressions and moods are closely intertwined. 

For example, many people will have noticed that they frown when feeling sad, but they also feel sad because they are frowning.

Facial expressions associated with depression are not just the consequences of low mood.  

In fact, they may be fundamental components of the depression disorder, and may therefore be targeted with much benefit as an entirely new approach to the treatment of clinically low mood.

However, many experts, including Jerome Kagan, an eminent psychologist specialising in behaviour, challenge this notion, categorically stating that our expressions play only a small part in affecting our moods, as not all emotions are played out through facial expressions, most notably lust and guilt. 

In addition, the sufferers of Bell’s palsy (where the facial muscles are frozen) are still able to experience deep emotions, which doesn’t align neatly with the Botox for depression theory.

Although using Botox® to help with depression is an intriguing concept, there simply hasn’t been enough research carried out to validate the claims made. 

However, for those that suffer chronic, and as yet untreatable, depression, Botox® may be an avenue that is well worth exploring.

Botox is a trademark of Allergan Inc.

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