There is mounting preliminary evidence suggesting that Botox treatment for depression works quite well. In fact just receiving one injection of cosmetic botulinum toxin (BTX) could ward off the blues. Although only smaller studies have been conducted, most researchers believe that Botox treatments target facial muscles that are responsible for both expressing and regulating emotions.
What is Botox (BTX)?
Botox is a substance that is utilized for cosmetic surgery to improve the appearance of the skin, specifically facial wrinkles. It usually helps reduce the wrinkles and frown lines between the eyebrows. The type of Botox that is used in cosmetic surgery is referred to as “BTX-A,” and treatments typically last up to four months, but results differ among patients.
Botox injections for depression: How do they improve mood?
Facial muscles: The current research conducted by researchers at Hannover Medical School in Germany discovered that when the facial muscles that are tied to emotion are injected with botulinum, depressive symptoms are significantly reduced. A professor involved in the study said that, “Our emotions are expressed by facial muscles, which in turn send feedback signals to the brain to reinforce those emotions.” He continued by stating that when we treat the facial muscles with Botox, it interrupts the depressive cycle.
Improved appearance: Let’s face it, most people like looking good. If someone has an ailment or doesn’t like the way they look, it could really lower their self-esteem and make them depressed. Someone who gets Botox injections and reduces the amount of wrinkles on their face may look vibrant and young again, leading them to feel more confident and less depressed.
Botox for Depression Research 2014
Based on current research, beneficial effects on mood have been found among individuals who have gone through Botox treatment for their frown lines. A series of studies has demonstrated that depression either improved or went into remission after the treatment. The latest research conducted by Kruger and Wollmer in Germany involved a placebo-controlled, double blind study with 30 participants.
The study participants all had notable high levels of severe and treatment-resistant depression. Those involved in the study were randomly given individual single injections of either Botox (BTX) or a placebo (saline solution). The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD17) was used to measure depressive symptoms over the course of 16 weeks.
Results: Approximately 6 weeks following a single treatment, the individuals that received the Botox (BTX) injections experienced an average drop of 47.1% in HAMD17 scores. Those who received the placebo experienced a drop of 9.2% in their symptoms. Researchers noted that the significance of improvement in depressive symptoms was even greater near the end of the study. They also determined that improvement was also made on the BDI (Beck Depression Inventory) and CGIS (Clinical Global Impressions Scale).
Conclusions: The team of researchers behind the study concluded that just one treatment with Botox may provide relief from depression for patients who didn’t improve on an antidepressant medication. It also supports the hypothesis that facial muscles can play an important role in the regulation of a person’s mood.
Is Botox a cure for depression? The jury is still out.
Let’s not get too carried away with the results from this study. Sure there can be clear benefits from receiving Botox injections: activation of facial muscles to regulate positive emotion as well as improved appearance, which may lead to boosted confidence and mood. In this German study, the sample size was relatively small (only 30 participants).
It should also be noted that the results of the study were hyped up by the media because this is an unexpected, unique, and potentially groundbreaking remedy for depression. The study had both a double-blind and placebo-controlled protocol, which shows that there is some potential here. Before we get too caught up in the immediate results, using Botox to help treat depression warrants further research with larger sample sizes.
A couple of other studies by Michelle Magid and Eric Finzi have also found similar improvements in mood from using Botox. A meta-analysis of the three studies is currently in the works, which should set the stage perfectly for a larger scale study in the future. Although you may be skeptical about a treatment that targets facial muscles instead of neurotransmitters, if you have severe depression, you may need to explore alternative treatments like this one if it continues to prove effective.
I would also be interested to hear from people who have had facial Botox injections and suffer(ed) from depression. Have you noticed that after getting these injections your mood improves? To what degree do you experience an improvement? Feel free to share your thoughts on the potential of this treatment in the comments section below.
I am glad to see alternative treatments being explored for those with depression. Although the market is saturated with SSRI’s, there are some promising developments in the works for people with major depression, including ALKS-5461. I’m more excited about non-medicinal approaches to treating the disease and/or genetic therapy, but we are still a ways away from the ability to target and deactivate and/or activate certain genes.