I am lucky enough not to suffer from depression but, like most, I have days when I am truly miserable. Waking up, whilst darkness ensues, to a frozen car in recent weeks has definitely provoked some despair as I realise winter is just beginning.
Our clinic has been particularly busy in the last few weeks and I began to wonder whether this might partly be due to the ‘winter blues’. There are usually common cues for clients seeking an appointment: a holiday booked in the coming weeks, certain wrinkles/ lines are returning, special occasions such as an anniversary or wedding. Indeed, I do often hear, “Botox makes me feel better”, as a justification for treatment.
CosmeDocs has never studied whether more of our clients having Botox in winter have some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or indeed, feel more in need of a “pick-me up”. So I started to look at the evidence around the relationship between Botox and mood.
Although there have been suggestions and studies for years over a link between Botox and our frame of mind, this year brought a few interesting reads. Most notably was the book, The Face of Emotion: How Botox Affects Our Moods and Relationships, by dermatologist and MD Eric Finzi. Here it suggests that our expressions are a key driving force for our emotions. Although people often assume that because they look better, they feel better, Dr Finzi suspects that Botox can help control the flow of negative emotions. He proposes that facial expressions alone are sufficient to generate emotional feelings. Indeed Botox in the frown can inhibit muscle feedback to the brain responsible for emotions. So if we can stop this feedback, is Botox the answer to depression and perhaps anger? Of additional importance to our emotions is how people react to our facial expressions; if perceived happier, others may respond with a warmer, friendlier approach, lifting our mood.
Contrary to the studies relating frown line Botox as a potential treatment for depression was a study on the effects of smile lines, or ‘crow’s feet’. The eyes use these muscles when smiling. Using Botox for crow’s feet reduces the strength of the smile and may increase the chance of depression.
It would follow that perhaps an answer for depression would be to Botox facial muscles linked with anger and sadness: smooth the frown lines, relieve heavy eyebrows and lift the corners of downturned mouths. Simultaneously, leave smile lines such as the crow’s feet untreated. However, would this create eerie ‘happier’ mask-like features that impair interpersonal relations?
Although I inject facial muscles daily, I also appreciate and value the power of expression. I like to know if someone is troubled, amused, upset or surprised by using my human ability to be able to read faces. Our expressions are one of the first communication tools our children have to learn from, and they allow us to form close relationships.
I believe, as with the anti-aging benefits of Botox, there is a place also for helping those who find some mood lifting relief from toxin treatment. For those who battle daily, where quality of life is severely affected and other methods have failed, Botox may provide hope and potential remedy. However, it should be prescribed only after a thorough consultation and should not form part of the quick-fix solutions many people seek.
Meanwhile, I’ll be forcing a smile in the freezing cold hoping to boost positive feedback and bring on some winter cheer.