Breakthroughs in Plastic Surgery

Botox Injections Helpful for Depression?

Botox Injections Helpful for Depression?

Botox has its place in smoothing out wrinkles, but theories abound that it could be helpful for depression.

A psychiatric expert has proposed Botox as a treatment for depression.

Eva Ritvo, M.D., author and vice-chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami, shared a memory in a recent Psychology Today blog. She wrote about seeing the Michael Jackson concert film This Is It and feeling moved to tears afterward. When Ritvo tried to cry, she found that she couldn’t, due to muscle paralysis caused by a recent Botox injection.

“Curious,” she wrote. “But even more surprisingly, when I couldn’t cry, I quickly stopped feeling sad. I felt so odd that I couldn’t find those emotions.”

She wrote that the emotion of sadness seemed to disappear after it couldn’t be fully expressed – and added that this experience repeated a few times in the following weeks. “The emotions lingered a bit but felt ‘unreal’ and disconnected,” she wrote. Ritvo cited the “facial feedback theory,” which is the connection between the physical expression of an emotion and the intensity of that emotion. She also cited a 2006 experiment where dermatologist Eric Finzi injected Botox into the frown lines of several depressed women. After two months, the women no longer showed depression signs.

“Is that because looking better makes us feel better? Is it because our faces can’t provide negative feedback such as frowning, scowling and crying?” she wrote. “Are we more appealing to others when we look happy and this triggers more positive events in our lives? Or is there some neurological pathway being affected by the injections of which we’re still unaware? Theories abound.”

With those possibilities in mind, Ritvo wrote of a need for new research that could reinforce a link between emotion and the facial effects of Botox.

“If we can see treatments like Botox as potentially efficacious treatments for real illnesses instead of luxuries for pampered ‘real housewives,’ then we stand a better chance of getting real science behind the anecdotes and real help for patients who need it,” she wrote.

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