According to new research, the cosmetic application of Botox seems to lower symptoms of depression in some patients, possibly because it inhibits frowning.
Previous research has demonstrated that physically expressing an emotion first can trigger subsequent feelings and that people who laugh or smile regularly can improve their mood.
Studies have also shown that people find jokes funnier when a pencil is placed between their teeth lengthwise, which forces a smile, than when they hold it pointing outwards, which doesn’t.
This is the second study to compare Botox to placebo. Although the results have not yet been thoroughly reviewed enough for publication in a scientific journal, the findings suggest that it may hold promise.
The study included 84 participants with severe depression that had persisted an average of two years and had failed to completely respond to antidepressant medication. The patients were randomly selected to receive either Botox treatment for smoothing out frown lines or a placebo injection into the same facial region, and were assessed three and six weeks later.
By the end of the study, around 27 percent of those receiving Botox reported nearly complete remission of their depression, compared to just 7 percent of those who received placebo.
“[This trial shows] that inhibition of frowning can lead to remission in depression,” said Dr. Eric Finzi, medical director of the Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center in Maryland.
While the data showed a trend that suggested greater remission was linked with a larger reduction in visible frowning, “an observable frown at rest was not necessary to see improvement,” he said.
There is also the possibility that Botox affects depression in a more biological way, such as through the immune system, which can be altered during depression. But Finzi noted that other studies with larger doses of Botox have not shown significant systemic effects, leading him to believe its primary benefit may be in helping people view themselves as “happier.”
Since there has been minimal research, however, it’s too soon to suggest that Botox could be the next Prozac.
But the findings suggest an intriguing mind-body connection that could shed light on new ways to relieve the symptoms of depression.