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Chatham Facial Plastic Surgery

Why worry? There’s Botox!


“Botox” for depression? Really?

“TIME” magazine recently featured “Botox” on its front cover. A chemical that once was just a bacteria spore -forming toxin found in nature, a drug that some associate with frivolous vanity, and a word now firmly embedded in the Western world’s culture. Why does “Botox” make the cover?

The answer lies in its amazing versatility to improve many human maladies, including depression. Most of us already know that injections of botulinum (marketed as Botox, Dysport and Xeomin, just slightly different versions) can soften unwanted crow’s feet and furrowed brows. It can also lesson headaches including migraine headaches. Exactly how is somewhat of a mystery.

Botox also can reduce unwanted sweating, or hyperhidrosis, which can be a socially devastating condition. Television ads also inform us it can be used to relax an overactive bladder. And other types of muscle spasticity have been treated with Botox for several years. But what’s this about depression?

For one thing, when we inject the corrugator muscles between the eyebrows, these are responsible for our ‘scowl’ expressions. The brain and nerves cause these muscles to contract (scowl). The movement of these muscles now creates feedback to the brain that we have indeed ‘scowled’. When this is interrupted with Botox or Dysport or Xeomin, the brain feedback loop is interrupted. Patients report an enhanced feeling of well being. In other words, we feel a bit happier. Several studies have confirmed this.

Dr Eric Finzi & Dr Norman Rosenthal are two research physicians, for example, who have studied and written about this.

 When two groups of subjects are compared, asking them questions about overall contentment, the ones treated with Botox will show improved happiness scores. Depression scores improved as much as 50% in one study. Effects seem to last 12-16 weeks.

There is even a theory that the botulinum drug even may find its way into the brain itself. This somehow may increase levels or dopamine or serotonin and act like an chemical antidepressant. Further studies will help determine if Botox can help manic depression and anxiety. This is not to say that Botox will soon replace talk therapy or traditional antidepressant medications. But it may soon become a mainstream adjunct for many people.

A number my personal patients do indeed tell me that somehow they ‘just feel better’ when they have received Botox. And while the reason they come to me is for unwanted creases and wrinkles, feeling better is a pretty nice ‘side effect!

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