Botox: The new antidepressant?
We have a couple more studies that suggest that paralyzing key facial muscles with Botox can reduce the symptoms of depression.
In a recent 24-week randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study, done by Michelle Magid, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas, 30 participants with depressive symptoms were randomized and give injections of Botox or a placebo between the eyebrows (which happens to be exactly where I need it.)
The men were injected with 39 units of botulinum and the women were injected with 29 units. At week 12, the placebo group crossed over to treatment, and the treatment group crossed over to placebo.Participants were evaluated at weeks 0, 3, 6, 12, 15, 18, and 24. The primary outcome was a reduction from baseline of at least 50% in the 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score.
In a yet-to-be-published study in the in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Eric Finzi, a cosmetic dermatologist, and Norman Rosenthal, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, randomly assigned a group of 74 patients with major depression to receive either Botox or saline injections in the forehead muscles that enable us to frown.
Six weeks after the injection, 52 percent of the subjects who got Botox showed relief from depression, compared with only 15 percent of those who received the saline placebo.
These studies are part of a growing body of research that seems to show that paralyzing the muscles that allow us to express unhappiness and sadness brings relief to people with depression. Top it off with an article in last Sunday’s New York Times – Don’t Worry, Get Botox – and we now have a phenomenon that has certainly caught the attention of cosmetic dermatologists, insurance companies and menopausal women, such as me. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the editors at People magazine have picked up on it, too).
As someone with depression, menopause, health insurance and a heavily wrinkled brow, I have a few thoughts about this research. I once got Botox to relax the muscles between my eyebrows and on my forehead. It made me feel much better because I looked much better and I was going to my 32nd high-school reunion. (Yes, 32nd. It’s a long story.)
If I could afford Botox injections and could get beyond the vanity-shame I felt, I would probably get Botox on a regular basis. As for my depression, I’m not sure Botox would help.
In the nearly 10 years since my last MAJOR depression, I spent a lot of time studying myself and how I think and feel when I am on the edge of my black hole. My thought processes change. I instinctively turn to the worst case scenario. I ruminate. I denigrate myself. I convince myself that my life is relentlessly hopeless.
As for my physical symptoms, the first thing I notice is that the muscles in my face go slack. I call it depression Botox. The wrinkles flat-line. I have no expression. No frown. No furled brow. No wrinkles.
I have the most wrinkles on my face when I am exceedinly happy. I smile so hard that my face scrunches up. Those little tiny crows feet beside my eyes become talons. My eyebrows raise and my cheek muscles are so taught and high that I develop dimples.
I think it’s great that researchers are looking for alternative uses for Botox, such as relief for people who suffer from migraine headaches and depression. And I am amused at the thought of some insurance company executive fretting because soon there will be a big enough body of research supporting the therapeutic use of Botox that insurance companies will have to cover Botox.
Can you imagine? If insurance companies thought covering erectile dysfunction medications was costly, imagine how much they are going to have to shell out to cover Botox.
Just the thought of that makes me smile.
Box injection photo available from Shutterstock.
Syringe photo available from Shutterstock.
Stapleton, C. (2014). Botox: The new antidepressant?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 7, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2014/03/botox-the-new-antidepressant/