Over 100 years ago, Charles Darwin thought the expressions on our face are not just a result of our emotions but also an influence on our emotions. His theory — that smiling can make us happier and frowning can make us sadder — has been validated by researchers in the decades since he made his initial observation.
It wasn’t until recently, however, that dermatologist Eric Finzi noticed that some of his patients felt relief from depression after receiving Botox treatments to treat fine lines and wrinkles. He took his observation to Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist at Georgetown Medical School, which led to a study showing that over half of patients treated with a single Botox injection experienced more than a 50% reduction in their symptoms of depression, and nearly 30% of patients said their depression went into remission.
Dr. Rosenthal was the person who first proposed the concept of Seasonal Affective Disorder. He was ridiculed thirty years ago for suggesting that exposure to bright light during dark winter days could assist with that sort of depression. Is he onto something again?
A flurry of recent research seems to support Botox treatment for depression. In addition to Dr. Finzi’s research, a 2012 German study found that Botox worked better than placebo in treating depression; decreasing symptoms by almost 50 percent, according to Clinical Psychiatry News. And in a 2009 study, Scientific American reported that Botox eased depression, even among patients who didn’t report feeling more attractive as a result of Botox treatments.
While this treatment has promise, there are still some challenges to overcome before Botox is considered a mainstream way to address depression. It’s relatively expensive, it only lasts about 3 months, and it isn’t covered by insurance. Also, each study showed that it doesn’t work for everyone.
Still, the list of benefits related Botox seems to be growing. In addition to treating frown lines and wrinkles, clinical reports on Botox have appeared for other uses such as headaches, hypersalivation and profuse sweating. Could depression be next?