Wednesday, 5 September 2018
The benefits of Botox are well documented. This non-surgical treatment is known widely for its ability to smooth wrinkles and create plumper looking skin, which in turn, boosts self-confidence.

However, according to some studies, there are other advantages to receiving Botox treatments, which relate to your mental wellbeing.

Botox for Depression?

In 2006, a group of researchers in Maryland, USA started to become curious about the impact of Botox on mental health. They carried out a small-scale study to investigate the links between Botox and improved mood. 10 participants were involved, each of whom had been diagnosed with major depression.

Over the course of two months, the researchers gave the 10 people Botox injections in their glabellar frown lines (the vertical lines that appear between the eyebrows).

At the end of the study, nine of the 10 participants stated that they no longer suffered from depression, and the final person reported that their 
depressed symptoms had lessened.

An impressive result; but at this stage, it wasn’t enough to draw any solid conclusions. Still, the outcome was intriguing 
to say the least.

Moving Forward

By 2012, further reports linking Botox to reduced depression inspired another group of researchers to re-examine the case. This time, the study was larger, involving 30 participants who were taking antidepressants for their condition.

Over 16 weeks, 15 of the people received Botox treatments, again in the glabellar frown-line area. The other 15 were given placebo injections.

Those who were given Botox claimed to experience a 47.1% decrease in their depression, just six weeks after their first treatment. The other group, by contrast, only noted a 9.3% decrease. Of course, this was a small study.

However, this time, researchers felt more confident about drawing certain conclusions – namely that injecting Botox into the frown-lines reduced the symptoms of depression, and that it seemed to start working in as little as six weeks.

A Further Examination

In 2014, another study followed, again, involving 30 people with major depression. This time, the treatment ran for 24 weeks, with participants monitored regularly throughout the process.

Once more, the symptoms associated with depression were lessened (or even eliminated), but perhaps more interestingly, participants reported feeling less depressed, even when the cosmetic impact of the Botox had worn off.

This seemed to suggest that, far from being a short-term solution, Botox had the potential to alleviate depression for extended periods of time.

And Now?

Since then, further studies have been carried out; notably in 2017 in Iran, which reported similar results to those recorded in the past.

Most people already knew that Botox treatments improved cosmetic appearance, but it was surprising to discover that it could impact positively on mental health too.

Some researchers theorised that the reduced wrinkles / better aesthetic appearance was responsible for the participants’ elevated mental state. However, it was noted that some weren’t wrinkled in the first place, yet still reported a decrease in depressive symptoms.

The big question was – how exactly was Botox making a difference?

Refuse to Express an Emotion and it Dies?

This statement was made by William James (a famous psychologist), back in 1890. Yet despite the fact that it was said over 120 years ago, it might just be the key to solving the mystery.

It’s been suggested that facial expressions not only express how we feel, they also control it too. For example, when frowning, you’re more likely to feel sad or angry than if you’ve got a smile on your face.

By inhibiting movement around the glabellar frown-lines, Botox also inhibits frowning. This results in something called ‘facial feedback’, whereby the brain ‘reads’ signals from the expression and adapts mood accordingly.

Interestingly, several of the participants also noticed that they felt less fearful too – another emotion associated with a frowning facial expression.

Experts have also postulated that Botox may have the same impact as relaxation exercises, inducing a better feeling of wellbeing, even in stressful situations. Whatever the explanation, the current findings all seem to point to one thing – Botox works as an effective treatment for depression.

The Implications?

It goes without saying that these findings are tremendously important. Depression is a condition that currently affects around one in four people each year in the UK. That’s 25% of the population that report poor mental health – a staggering number indeed.

More worryingly, statistics suggest that depression is becoming more prevalent; hardly surprising given how many people struggle with stressful careers, family worries and over-busy lives.

Anti-depressants are the standard treatment for those with depression; yet these can have serious side-effects; such as nausea, 
diarrhoea / constipation, reduced libido, insomnia, headaches and many more.

Botox, by contrast, is considered relatively risk-free (though as with any procedure, there are rare side-effects which should be detailed by your practitioner before commencing treatment).

Tackling Depression and More

Research is still in the early stages. However, the results thus far have been encouraging enough for Allergan, a major pharmaceutical company, to announce that they were moving their Botox treatments on to the next stages of development.

This sends a clear message that Botox is indeed a viable way to reduce 
and that it may be useful in tackling other mental health conditions too, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Dr Finzi, one of the researchers involved in the Maryland trials, stated his ambitions for the future as “our hope is eventually it will form a place as one of the tools to treat depression.”

The Other Benefits of Botox

Of course, that’s not to say that the other benefits of Botox treatments should be overlooked. In addition to possibly promoting better mental health, patients frequently report boosted self-confidence.

Treatment of glabellar frown-lines is popular, but other parts of the face can be treated too, such as the forehead, the crow’s feet around the outsides of the eyes, and the ‘marionette lines’ around the mouth.

Botox can even be used to treat excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), which can make a big difference to people who suffer from the condition.

In short, there are several advantages, both physical and psychological, which explains why it remains one of the world’s most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatments.
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