Botox May Be Effective Treatment For Depression By Paralysing Frown Muscle
Christopher Philip

Botox Research Eric Finzi and Norman RosenthalA new study to be published in Journal of Psychiatric Research suggests that Botox (OnabotulinumtoxinA), may function as a powerful antidepressant by inhibiting frown facial muscles.

Researchers injected Botox into the corrugator and procerus muscles, the pyramid-shaped “frown muscles” centered between the eyebrows in those suffering from major depression. They found that over six weeks, a single treatment provided relief in 52% of the patients who received the injection. The placebo group also received an injection, however, it included only salt water thus did not block the frown muscle from flexing.

The researchers used the ‘facial-feedback hypothesis’ to drive their research. The idea says that not only do emotions create facial expressions, but facial expressions also create emotion. Those suffering from depression have a positive feedback loop which produces a highly negative outcome. Depression creates frowning and frowning creates depression – in a never ending cycle.

But if that cycle can be broken, figured the doctors, depression can be treated.

Depression is one of the most common and disabling conditions throughout the world.

“Honestly, these people suffer. With all that we have at our disposal nowadays, they continue to suffer,” said Rosenthal, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C.

Antidepressant drugs have been shown to be spotty or ineffective in some cases. Other times, the side effects are worse than the condition including loss of libido and insomnia.

The study included 74 adults with major depressive disorder. Less than half were using antidepressants. Half received the Botox treatment and the other half, a saline solution.

The Botox, by simply blocking the frowning expression, was powerful enough to drop the symptoms of depression by 47 percent compared to 21 percent in the saline group.

About half were correctly able to guess which of the treatments they had received, but that didn’t affect the outcome. Those who guessed correctly faired just as well as those who did not.

According to Finzi and Rosenthal, “frowning may affect the way people feel about themselves when they look in the mirror and the way others respond to them.” “Happier facial expressions may lead to more positive social interactions,” they added.

The doctors also believe that the brain continuously monitors facial expressions. Our moods act according to this perception. Thus, freezing the muscle with Botox may put and end to the harmful circuitry.

One important limitation to the treatment in a widespread capacity is that it can cost upwards of $400 USD and last only two to three months.

The Take Away Message

First, it’s amazing that 21 percent who received the saline (salt) water injection improved! They must have just figured, through placebo, that they couldn’t frown anymore. Voila, the doctor has solved my problem! However, this adds even more weight to the ‘facial feedback hypothesis.’ One could only guess what was working through their heads, but I would assume that they consciously made an effort to repress frowning as the assumption would have been made in some cases that either they were getting Botox or they were being treated with an new experimental drug. Either way, placebo effect!

In the other group, the results speak more strongly as the conscious and subconscious ability – their entire ability – to frown was robbed from them. This made them much more successful than the placebo group because it helped them to prevent the endless emotional depressive cycle.

We have a powerful tool at our disposal and that is the knowledge that our brain function and our facial expressions work in concert to produce our overall affect. With a bit of training, and the knowledge of one’s own willful power, I suspect most would be quite successful in removing themselves consciously from the feedback cycle that is crippling their mood.

Put on a happy face so the world smiles back at you! It’s cheaper too!

Resources

Eric Finzi and Norman E. Rosenthal. Treatment Of Depression With OnabotulinumtoxinA: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial. Journal of Psychiatric Research. Volume 52 (May 2014). DOI: published by Elsevier.

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