Taking The Wrinkles Out Of Treatment
Everyone has a pet theory about the causes of depression. Each theory correlates to a different treatment approach. One such theory is called "facial feedback." This hypothesis states that facial muscle movements dictate an appropriate emotional response to our brains. In other words, if we are smiling, our brains tell us to feel happy, and if we draw our brows together, our brains tell us to feel anger.
Perhaps this helps explain the results of recent research that shows Botox injections to be an effective treatment for depression. The muscle paralysis brought on by Botox treatments makes it impossible for patients to frown. If the brain can't make the sadness connection, depression remains at bay.
In a recent article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Eva Ritvo, M.D., a vice chair at the University of Miami's department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences shares an experience she had in reaction to seeing the Michael Jackson film, This Is It. Ritvo felt moved to tears by what she saw on the screen, but when she tried to cry, she found it impossible, due to the paralysis of her facial muscles which was caused by a recent injection of Botox. The psychiatrist described her feelings, “…when I couldn’t cry, I quickly stopped feeling sad…I felt so odd that I couldn’t find those emotions.”
Ritvo's experience is interesting in light of the results of a study conducted by dermatologist Eric Finzi, M.D.; Ph.D. Dr. Finzi's study was small but significant. The skin doctor treated ten patients suffering from depression with Botox injections in the lines between their eyebrows. Finzi found that 9 out of 10 of these patients had resolved their depression within two months of treatment.
The question psychiatrists are asking is, "Why did Botox heal depression in these patients?" One line of thinking holds that these patients had poor self-images because they were dissatisfied with their appearances. Once their wrinkles were smoothed away, the depression dissipated, too. But other shrinks are certain that the inability to frown after Botox injections meant there was no facial feedback telling patients to feel sad. It's certainly possible that both feeling better about one's appearance as well as achieving the inability to frown changed these patients' mental health situations.
Ritvo suggests that if we were to see Botox as a "real treatment" for illness rather than as a luxury for pampered housewives, mental health professionals might push to find the real science behind the theories and evidence that Botox puts an end to depression.
In any case, for those of us who think Botox treatments are odd, extreme, or only for the wealthy, we can try to mimic the apparent emotional benefits of such treatments, free of charge. Smiling doesn't cost a thing. But be forewarned, it's probably contagious.