Since one of every 10 American adults has depression, wouldn’t it be great if something could be done to help it. One potential answer — partial facial paralysis — has been underutilized and understudied until recently. Could it be the answer so many people are looking for?
And since women are twice as susceptible to depression as men, could the use of Botox injections to help clinical depression in women be an important development in women’s health?
It all starts with Eric Finzi.
As a child, Finzi studied his mother’s face very carefully. And she was a woman who wore lots of distress on her face. He knew her depression was worse when her brow lowered to darken her eyes.
Finzi chose a career in dermatological surgery. But understanding his mother was always on his mind. He spent a good deal of his spare time reading about mental illness and psychology. And she got worse. When Fenzi was just 36 years old, his father died, and his mother’s depression worsened to the point that she was almost unreachable. She suffered for years more and finally died at age 74.
Meanwhile, Finzi also painted.
Not long after the death of his mother, Finzi undertook painting a series of portraits based on photos that depicted French women who were institutionalized in the 19th century. From his study of his mother’s condition, his medical education and these paintings, Finzi was becoming a face expert.
During his office hours, he spent a good deal of time looking at frown lines and injecting them with Botox.
All of this led him to start thinking very seriously about the connection between this way we feel and what we express on our faces. In particular, he wondered about the connection between depression and expression. How could the two be completely separate? And could making the face less pained make the mind less depressed?
As Finzi thought about it more, he realized that the physical expression on our faces is an important part of how we handle emotion. You can’t really feel angry or sad without moving your face, but it’s possible, he mused, that you might not be able to feel emotions as strongly or as persistently if your face didn’t line up with your feelings in the way it’s supposed to. Could that really be possible? Could it be that the face transmits its expression back to the brain, and this transmission enhances the feeling you’re experiencing?
At the time Finzi was doing his painting, no one had ever studied such a thing as the hypothesis he was forming. How could an experiment along those lines be devised? And how could researchers understand if a thought that was causing a frown didn’t manifest itself?
But Finzi realized Botox was the answer. If he could inject depressed patients with Botox, he could study whether any of them went into a state of remission. In 2003, he launched a small study, paralyzing the frown muscles of some patients so they couldn’t express fear, anger or sadness. Nine of his 10 patients with depression got better. The study was published in 2006.
Recently, a wider-scale study has been published that backs up what Finzi found, and the link between Botox injections and relieving depression is growing stronger. So why aren’t more people taking action based on these studies?
While Finzi’s mother can’t benefit from the results of her son studying her pained expression and the expressions of others for so many years, at least others can. And it would be a real shame if nothing much comes from what Finzi and researchers who have come after him have found about the link between depression, frowning and therapeutic Botox.
Health professionals (including psychiatrists) interested in learning to inject Botox, see our Botox Course, and/or call (858) 550-9533