Happier Faces with Botox: Depression and the Winter Blues

Happier Faces with Botox: Depression and the Winter Blues

Can Botox effectively treat depression and the winter blues? A recent review article in the Journal of Psychiatric Research suggests that indeed it can; confirming that facial expressions play a role in influencing depressed moods.

The authors found that botulinum toxin injected into the brow muscles has significant antidepressant effects as compared to placebo in randomized controlled studies. These findings may seem surprising, but over a century ago they were predicted by Charles Darwin. While it is evident that our emotions influence our facial expressions, the reverse is less obvious. Darwin made special reference to this facial feedback effect, which is called emotional proprioception, in relation to depression. Darwin first observed the two vertical slit like wrinkles between the eyebrows that are joined at the top by a horizontal crease. He described this as the omega sign because the wrinkles were shaped like the last Greek letter of the alphabet. He recognized the omega sign as an indicator of melancholy and noted its disappearance when patients recovered from their sadness. Another famous scientist, William James, stated that he did not cry because he was sad, but rather he was sad because he cried. In both instances the hypothesis was that external representations of sorrow or grief were actually signalling back to the emotional centers of the brain causing or exacerbating feelings of distress. This has become to be known as the facial feedback hypothesis.

Other studies showed that people rated cartoons funnier when smiling than when frowning. People also rated negative photos more aggressive when frowning than when smiling. It is felt that the simple contraction of the zygomaticus muscle which occurs when smiling gives a positive spin to decision making.

In this study, E.Finzi and N. E. Rosenthal injected Botox into the glabella or frown muscles of depressed patients. Nearly 60% of patients had significant improvement in their depression and almost one-third of patients had complete remission.

How might injecting Botox into the glabella frown lines influence the emotional brain? Hennenlotter et al 2009 showed that subjects who received Botox injections to their frown lines had amygdalas that were less responsive to negative stimuli on MRI.

Botox has long been known to improve wrinkles and make one look younger. But now, Botox can have beneficial effects in reducing depression and the winter blues: giving one a better sense of well-being and happiness and making patients feel more positive about their lives and more confident.

Dr. DeConti has performed over 100,000 injections since BOTOX® Cosmetic was introduced in 2002. As a highly credentialed surgeon with the American Board of Plastic Surgery and training in Craniofacial Surgery, he is an expert in the intimate details of facial muscle anatomy. This knowledge allows Dr. DeConti to perform BOTOX® Cosmetic injections accurately and effectively for the finest and most optimum results with the least amount of risk.

To learn how BOTOX® Cosmetic can help you look younger and improve the winter blues, call 804 673-8000 and schedule a facial rejuvenation consultation at DeConti Plastic Surgery today.  Dr. DeConti participates in the Allergan Brilliant Distinctions Loyalty Program to help benefit your aesthetic needs.

1. Eric Finzi and Norman E. Rosenthal, Emotional proprioception: Treatment of depression with afferent facial feedback, Journal of Psychiatric Research 80 2016:93-96
2. A. Hennenlotter, C. Dresel et al, The link between facial feedback and neural activity within central circuitries of emotion-new insights from botulinum toxin-induced denervation of frown muscles, 2009 Cerebral Cortex 19:537-542

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