New research finds Botox might help fight depression


Over the past decade, Botox has gone from niche to normal. What was once used purely for cosmetic reasons (lip lines! 11’s! Crow’s feet! etc,) is now considered a cure-all for heaps of health issues, from excess sweating to endometriosis. And if this new article out of the Journal Scientific Reports is anything to go by, it might also ease depression.

The study examines the theory that, when injected into certain parts of the face, the drug prohibits our ability to not only show expression but feel the associated emotion too. (For example, the skin between the eyebrows and above the nose is linked with “grief.”) But after analysing data from more than 45,000 clinical reports of those who had gone under the needle, researchers believe this connection may be far more complicated. 

Although the patients who received Botox reported symptoms of depression 40 per cent to 88 per cent less often then those who looked to an alternative treatment for the same condition, it didn’t matter where the injections were administered.

“We found that [the effect] doesn’t depend on the location of the injection and it doesn’t depend on the [medical conditions], which are quite diverse for Botox,” Ruben Abagyan, the study’s lead author and a professor at the University of California told CNN. “The implications of that are fascinating because it means that depression can be cured with different (means) and not necessarily by injection in one of the facial muscles, which may be unwanted in some cases.” 

Full disclosure: the researchers aren’t clear on exactly why this is, though there are a few possibilities. Some experts believe that when Botox gets into the bloodstream it effects the central nervous system and the way it regulates our emotions. Others put it down to a reduction in muscle tension.

It’s also worth wondering if some of the chronic conditions managed with Botox have a secondary implication over our mood. Say, if Botox stops you suffering from excessive sweating, it might improve your emotional state. “This study makes me wonder if having muscle spasms or sweating may be giving us a physical feeling of depression as well, and by treating this ‘sensation of depression’ we can affect not just a patient’s medical problem (but) their psychological wellbeing as well,” Jason Reichenberg, dermatologist and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas at Austin told CNN. 

Bottom line? It’s hopeful that in the future Botox may be prescribed to help those who haven’t seen success treating their symptoms via typical methods. Still, more studies need to be done – especially since the researchers had limited details on demographics, medical records and what medications and supplements patients were taking at the time.

Image: Getty

Would you ever try Botox to help with your mental health?

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Comments 26

  1. I have not heard of this before. Botox is basically a muscle paralysing poison. If used to correct a perceived imperfection I can see how a person may feel happier. But if indeed it does effect the CNS the implications and possible applications for the treatment of depression are potentially huge (and great for sales of Botox – Ka Ching!)

  2. What Frenchy perfectly said down below. Not against botox at all here. If I had debilitating migraines and could not eliminate the cause…I would try it if it helps. Not for my crazy sweating though as I like to sweat things out hehe

  3. I saw on Catalyst (ABC tv science show) that if you make a facial expression, it can make you feel the associated emotion because the wiring in the brain goes both ways, eg if you’re depressed, but you fake a smile, it can make you feel happy.

  4. I’m just thankful I don’t need Botox to help with any health conditions. As for cosmetic reasons, well it might be helpful but I definitely wouldn’t go down that path.

  5. I knew someone who had botox to help with her excessive sweating she said it helped, my Mum has botox in her neck as she has a neurological condition and it helps her with that, she says she needs it in her face too.

  6. Yeah I can see how botox can help depression if you were depressed because you suffered migraines, excessive sweating etc and the botox helped your primary issue then it would of course help the depression.

  7. Well that is clever and makes sense. When I was a teenager I went through a phase where I was just really down about life in general… read an article somewhere (this was before internet articles) that said that if you smile and sit up more you eventually do start feeling better and I remember it working. I guess that’s the same principle?

  8. I would look for more natural ways to get happier if I were depressed – in fact, I think my first choice would be to increase my holidays and sunshine (vitamin D). Thankfully I don’t suffer depression but my hubby can get the blues – he’s an office worker though and mainly inside all day. Reminds me, maybe we’re due a holiday bout now!

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