Lift that Frown: Botox Treats Depression

by Alex Kilpatrick

Lift that Frown: Botox Treats Depression

New research shows that paralyzing certain facial muscles with Botox prevents patients from frowning and, in turn, treats depression, according to the New York Times.

Cosmetic dermatologist Eric Finzi and Georgetown Medical professor of psychiatry Norman Rosenthal conducted a study, forthcoming in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, in which they randomly assigned a group of 74 patients with major depression to receive either Botox or saline injections in the forehead muscles that control frowning.

Six weeks after the injections, about 52 percent of the subjects who received Botox showed relief from depression, compared to only 15 percent of the patients who received the saline injections.

Over the past several years, other studies have found similar effects of Botox on mood. For example, Cardiff University’s Michael Lewis reported that nondepressed patients at a cosmetic dermatology clinic receiving Botox above the eyes frowned less and felt better than patients who did not receive the injections. The University of Basel’s M. Axel Wollmer found that Botox injections worked better than the placebo in a group of depressed patients.

Charles Darwin first proposed the theory that facial expressions may feed information back to the brain and influence emotions. In “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,” he claimed that the control of facial expression causes a similar effect on subjective emotions.

William James took Darwin’s idea a step further, proposing that emotions were actually the result and not the cause of bodily sensations.

“We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble and not that we cry, strike or tremble, because we are sorry, angry or fearful, as the case may be,” James wrote in his book The Principles of Psychology.

The Botox studies suggest that the brain monitors facial expressions and responds by generating the appropriate emotions.

Some other depression treatments use facial feedback in a similar way. For example, light therapy stimulates the retina and excites the optic nerve, sending signals directly to the brain and treating seasonal depression. Direct electrical stimulation of the brain’s vagal nerve tends to have antidepressant effects as well.

Treating depression with Botox is simply one of many “outside-in” somatic therapies that manipulate the body with the ultimate goal of altering the brain and mind by using cold wet sheet packs to treat agitation or acupuncture for anxiety.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Botox, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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