Since Botox® first came on the market, it has been used to treat far more than facial wrinkles (frown lines and crow’s feet). Its other uses include:
- Eyelid spasm
- Severe neck & shoulder muscle spasms
- Chronic migraine
- Excessive sweating
- Crossed eyes (strabismus)
- Post-stroke limb spasticity
- Urinary incontinence/overactive bladder
- Off-label uses such as cerebral palsy, sphincter dysfunction, et al.
But now it seems that DEPRESSION may be added to this list. How is this possible, you may ask? In a study authored by Eric Finzi, a cosmetic dermatologist, and Norman Rosenthal, a professor of psychiatry from Georgetown University, 74 patients with major depression were randomly assigned to receive either Botox or saline injections in the forehead muscles whose contraction enables frowning. Six weeks after the injection, 52% of the subjects who got Botox showed relief from depression, compared with only 15% of those who received the saline placebo.
According to a recent article on the subject that appeared in the New York Times, you might think that patients would easily be able to tell whether they got the placebo or Botox. But it wasn’t the case. Only about half of the subjects getting Botox guessed correctly. And knowing which treatment was received had no significant effect on treatment response.
This was not the first study to report the positive effects of Botox on mood. The Botox studies suggest a circuit between the brain and the muscles of facial expression whereby the brain monitors the emotional valence of the face and responds by generating the appropriate feeling.
Dr. Richard Freedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College who authored the NY Times article, noted that “whether Botox will prove to be an effective and useful antidepressant is as yet unclear. If it does prove effective, however, it will raise the intriguing epidemiological question of whether in administering Botox to vast numbers of people for cosmetic reasons, we might have serendipitously treated or prevented depression in a large number of them.”
You can read more on this fascinating subject here.