Is Botox the Key to Curing Depression?

An NBC2 Florida (WBBH) news program recently aired a segment about the possibility of Botox being used to help treat depression.

Dr. Eric Finzi, a board certified dermasurgeon, began studying the effects of Botox injections on women with major depressive disorder in 2006. He injected Botox into the frowning muscles (located between the eyebrows) of 10 women (9 with depression, 1 with bipolar disorder.) After two months, Dr. Finzi found that all 9 of the depressed women were no longer showing signs of it, and even the woman with bipolar disorder experienced an improvement in her mood.

Although Botox is commonly used for cosmetics, the changes in the subjects’ moods were not due to feeling better about their appearance. When a person is angry or upset, the frowning muscle tenses up. But, according to Dr. Finzi, “if you inhibit the ability of this muscle to contract, you’re actually going to feel less sadness and anger. You’re actually going to have more difficulty feeling the emotion because feelings are not just something that’s happening in the brain.”

We have previously blogged about the relationship between our actions and our emotions, quoting psychologist/philosopher William James, who was one of the first theorists to notice that “without some kind of bodily response, we would not feel emotion.”

Dr. Finzi believes that this statement applies when explaining the success of the Botox injections in treating depression.

According to a Newsweek article regarding the study, “To a surprising degree, the facial muscles control emotions, as well as the other way around. Patients with Mobius syndrome, a partial facial paralysis, seem not to experience emotions with the same intensity as normal people. ‘I thought if I could interrupt this cycle and prevent the frown, maybe a depressed patient would get better,’ says Finzi.”

Read a past article written in the NY Times featuring research done on Mobius syndrome by Dr. David Matsumoto and Kathleen Bogart

Do you think that ‘preventing the frown’ would be an effective treatment for depression?

The belief that one’s emotions can be changed simply by changing the expression on their face has been around for ages, as evidenced in the famous song lyrics, “smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking, when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by if you smile through your fear and sorrow.”

Finzi suggests that the idea was initially suggested by Charles Darwin, who believed that a person’s mood can change according to their facial expressions. This idea was further supported by various researchers, including Dr. Paul Ekman. In addition, studies conducted by Humintell’s own Dr. Matsumoto was featured in Time Magazine which supported the claim that facial expressions of emotion do affect people’s moods.

According to WBBH, Dr. Finzi is currently running a similar experiment on a group of 60 subjects along with psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal, director of Capital Clinical Research Associates.

Do you think Dr. Finzi will have the same results this time around?

If they do wind up being similar, will you be convinced that Botox really is the new cure for depression?

9 responses to “Is Botox the Key to Curing Depression?”

  1. Markus says:

    What a stupid claim. I know facial muscles and emotion and moods are connected. But depression an bipolar is not caused by the contraction of certain facial muscles.

    Causes of depression are many: Loss of a loved one, losing ones job, neurotransmitter dificency, vitamin dificency etc. etc.

    Depression also involves repetative self-degrading tought patterns . Are thees thougts going to go away because you paralyse your facial muscles? No they wont. It will help you hide your depression from others. You “cure” depression and bipolar disorder through therapy and/or medication.

    I think this research will end up useless.

  2. Russ Conte says:

    My Master’s Degree is in Guidance and Counseling, and I can give an answer to this question in one word: “Do you think that ‘preventing the frown’ would be an effective treatment for depression?”


    Depression is much more complicated than that, and a review of the DSM will show the degree of sophistication around the diagnosis. Paul Ekman did find that making a facial expression did tend to bring on an emotion (try making an angry face for a while, see how your emotions change), but I am not aware of any peer reviewed evidence to support the idea that botox will prevent expressions of depression (or any other emotion), and thus I don’t see how this will treat (much less ‘cure’) depression.

    I put this at about the same level as the iPhone game that identifies facial expressions: Completely useless.

  3. Keith D. says:

    I thought I remembered reading other research a while back that talked about how botox also inhibits a person’s ability to recognize the same emotions in others that botox has inhibited them from being able to express themselves. For example, if a person has used botox on muscles which express happiness or sadness, they have a lower ability to recognize those expressions in others around them. If that’s the case, then a potential warning label for a “botox depression treatment” should include something to the effect that “Use of this medication may increase the risk of suicide in others.” That would be an amusing warning label for a movie or TV show, but not so much for the real world. Hopefully that effect would be taken into consideration before botox were ever approved as a treatment.

    To answer the question though, no I don’t think botox could be used to cure depression or bipolar disorder. It could be useful temporarily as part of a treatment regimen for those disorders in certain cases, but I don’t think it will ever cure them.

    This sounds like it’s more of a band-aid treatment, because it likely does nothing to address the actual source of the disorder but it may reduce the risk of “infection” (to compare it with a physical injury) leading to a decline in mental health. So this would be more akin to taking an Aspirin for the emotions– in that it could lessen the symptoms a patient would experience WHILE the cause is being treated.

  4. kw says:

    I completely believe it to work, it has worked for me each time I had it done, my last treatment of Botox has worn of and my depression has returned. reaserch more and it could be the end of excessive and side effect ridden medication, YAY!

  5. blue says:

    I have had major depression diagnosed for 7 years and for 3 years I no longer felt the need to treat it… then last year I coincidentally stopped using Botox and, having read this, realise that my depression that has worsened for the last year, is the same timing as no longer using Botox. It is VERY true that the stress of the wrinkling brow and anxiety (tied together like it or not) does multiply in intensity. From an actual person who has depression and has used Botox, I can say these claims make MUCH sense, and maybe people reading books should LISTEN instead of judging. We didn’t evolve after all, by relying on current knowledge, but instead by exploring, by being curious and open-minded enough to consider deeper knowledge we didn’t know existed. Pay attention to actual people’s experience.

  6. emily says:

    For the naysayers, I agree it makes no sense whatsoever. BUT as someone with depression who has also tried Botox for vanity reasons (not knowing anything about the possible positive side effects for depression so ruling out placebo effect), may I just say it works. I don’t know why and don’t really care why. I just care that I feel better.

  7. Peter McConnell says:

    I’m going to try it anyway. I’ve tried antidepressants, therapy etc, but have never made any meaningful improvements to my anxiety and depression. I do know that when I make a deliberate effort to maintain a poker face, not revealing my sadness or anxiety or stress, it has a marked impact on the intensity of my moods. So much so that I googled whether or not there was even a theory on this. I hadn’t read ANYWHERE that there even was a theory of a connection to facial expressions and mood. It was just based on my own limited understanding of emotional responses and how the brain is wired. That’s when I read this quote by Darwin: He who gives way to violent gestures will increase his rage; he who does not control the signs of fear will experience fear in a greater degree; and he who remains passive when overwhelmed with grief loses his best chance of recovering elasticity of mind.‎ This prompted me to look further to see if there was any study about botox improving depressive conditions. Sure enough…

    My feeling is that those who say this is an oversimplification might themselves be simplifying how the brain works.

    Look, we all respond differently to a variety of treatments. Please don’t discourage those of us still desperately seeking solutions. While I think this theory is more credible than it just being a placebo, even if it were – leave it alone if you don’t understand it fully.

  8. R W Higbee says:

    “Patients with Mobius syndrome, a partial facial paralysis, seem not to experience emotions with the same intensity as normal people.”

    What a terribly offensive statement! I have Moebius (correct spelling) Syndrome and I experience the same emotions as everyone else. AND I am a NORMAL person! Whoever wrote this should be ashamed!

  9. Francesca says:

    It’s actually a long debate that botox is cure for depression or not. but I personally believe and also agree with you. The same things described at Francesca’s Facelift

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © Humintell 2009-2018