For some people, nothing really helps with their debilitating depression symptoms. And many depressed people have tried a long list of medications, therapies and ideas. Everything from massage therapy to physical therapy and water therapy have been touted to ease symptoms, but nothing works for everyone. And some therapies are long shots that seem to work for very few people.
But some have discovered that simple Botox injections several times a year can help with even the most severe forms of depression. Botox is best known for its ability to smooth out the wrinkles in the face, but the paralyzing effect it has on muscles and the blocking impact it has on nerves may do something else. When injected into the so-called frown lines between the eyebrows, it may help ease the symptoms of depression.
Research has shown this is the case, but for many patients, the proof is in the results. The proof is in the improvements they see in their own lives. When they have their Botox injections, they say, they feel happier.
The idea comes from Dr. Eric Finzi, a dermatologist in Maryland who is a true pioneer in the use of Botox for depression. In his research, he has found that more than 50 percent of people who have moderate or even severe depression get a substantial benefit from having Botox injections that prevent them from being able to frown.
The conventional wisdom has long been that the brain sends a signal to the face telling it what emotion to express, but it could be the other way around: the face tells the brain what’s going on. This so-called facial feedback theory actually came around in the 1870s when Charles Darwin proposed it. William James had a similar theory that your facial expression can influence your mood.
According to Finzi, your emotions are partially created by your face, not just expressed by it. That means that controlling the face can at least partially control the mood. As we said, he has research to back this up.
So how does Botox work in this case? If Botox blocks the display of emotion and inhibits the transmission of the facial expression to the brain, the brain doesn’t feel the emotion — or at least doesn’t feel it as strongly.
Interestingly, the same muscle between the eyebrows is primarily responsible for our expressions of fear and anger as well as sadness.
Finzi isn’t the only one who has studied this idea. Two other studies back up this research — but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not yet support the use of this treatment, and that means it isn’t covered by most insurance plans.
It isn’t clear that insurance companies will ever jump on this bandwagon — but that doesn’t matter to some patients who are seeing the benefits from relatively inexpensive Botox injections.
And for patients who find some benefit, looking in the mirror and seeing a younger and less wrinkled face is also a nice bonus, even if more research is needed to prove that the treatments are improving their depression symptoms.
And since the side effects of Botox are minimal and results wear off if they’re undesirable, these treatments can be a great alternative to antidepressants and the many side effects that come with them. With medications, you can feel distant or disconnected, but none of these impacts are seen with Botox.
While you shouldn’t stop taking a prescribed medicine, it may be time to rethink how you treat your depression if you aren’t getting good results. There are new and better ways of doing things — and therapeutic Botox for depression is one of them.
Psychiatrists and other health professionals interested in learning how to use Botox, see our Botox training program or call (858) 550-9533