Would You Try Botox to Boost Your Mood?

VVartanian on 22 Nov 2013 at 9:00am

woman looking upwards pensive

We all know Botox, the most beloved neurotoxin on earth, is used to steamroll wrinkles.

You might even know it's used for vanquishing migraine pain and putting a stop to excessive underarm sweating. But, did you know our little "injectible friend" may be also be a mood booster?

Preliminary research by dermatologist Dr. Eric Finzi (pictured below), shows that Botox may indeed help depression. In fact, he's trying to secure FDA approval for the use of Botox as a mood elevator.  

We grabbed a minute with Dr. Finzi to talk about the tiny needle that treats wrinkles -- and maybe your mood.

RealSelf: You're a dermatologist and skin expert - how did you come upon the potential connection between Botox and depression?

dr eric finzi botox depression dermatologist

My motivation to find help for depression began when my mother died from it. I was working on a series of paintings of mental hospital patients from the 1880’s -- when I came across the writings of Charles Darwin and William James, who proposed a novel theory of emotion: that facial expressions feed information back to the brain, influencing emotions positively or negatively.

RealSelf: Can you tell us about your most recent research?

Let me begin by emphasizing that what I will describe is strictly at the investigational stage – that is, Botox is not FDA-Approved for use as an antidepressant.

Recently, I presented clinical trial research in 85 subjects with major depression with either onabotulinumtoxinA [the chemical name for Botox] or saline injection between the eyebrows into the frown muscles. More than half of the subjects treated with onabotulinumtoxinA responded, compared to 15 % of the [saline] group. The results were statistically significant.

RealSelf: Why do you think Botox may work for depression? 

This is a fascinating topic – one that so intrigued me that I wrote a book, The Face of Emotion: How Botox Affects Our Moods and Relationships, to try and explain the concepts.

dr eric finzi how botox affects our moods

If the noise is horrible and the air hard to breathe, you’re going to start frowning. I suggest that every time you frown, you are sending an impulse back to your brain: “This is unpleasant.” “Get me out of here.” "I’m not happy.” 

And your mind will be told that it needs to move away. In people suffering from depression, though, it is not so easy to just move away, to jump out of the skin.

When there is no tension in the frown muscles, as when those muscles have been inhibited by onabotulinumtoxinA, there is no negative feedback to report back to the brain. The lack of this negativity then creates a tremendously significant positive effect on our brain’s assessment of our mental state.

When the body doesn’t register muscle tension in the frown, positive progression takes place in the mind.

RealSelf: If further research needs to be done -- what encouragement can you offer to those who see Botox as a future solution?

I believe that mental health issues are under recognized in our society. Many patients who need help receive no care at all. The stigma associated with depression needs to disappear – the brain is no different from any other organ, and it deserves the same rights as the heart or pancreas.

No one would dream of telling a diabetic to suck it up and tell their pancreas to behave –  and yet many, including health care providers, can’t understand why a patient can’t just will away their depression.

These are difficult times economically for medical research and I would encourage people to lobby their representatives to provide more funding for research on depression. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability – if your mind suffers, all of you suffers.

Want more on using Botox for other medical conditions like migraine or excessive sweating? Click here!