A sim­ple way to treat de­pres­sion has been in our face all along. By Liz Krieger.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Beauty Bazaar -

A SWIPE OF LIP­STICK can put a smile on your face, but when it comes to beat­ing true de­pres­sion, beauty prod­ucts usu­ally don’t n’t do the trick. En­ter Botox, the fore­headsmooth­ing toxin that can erase fine lines, stop sweat­ing, and even squelch mi­graines. It turns out that a vial may have the power to make you hap­pier – and not just be­cause your wrin­kles have dis­ap­peared.

Sarah, 47, had strug­gled with ma­jor de­pres­sion since she was 21. She’d tried end­less hours of talk ther­apy y as well as a raft of an­tide­pres­sants. Though ugh the meds helped to some ex­tent, her sad­nes­sad­ness re­mained dom­i­nant. That’s when a post­card ar­rived, seek­ing par­tic­i­pants for a de­pres­sioni studyd as­so­ci­atedi d with Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity that in­volved us­ing Botox. De­spite hav­ing few frown lines, Sarah was in­ter­ested and en­rolled. Within a week or two of get­ting what ended up be­ing Botox, not the placebo, she says she felt some­thing she could de­scribe only with a word that might seem im­pos­si­ble to any­one living un­der a cloak of de­spair: “light­hearted”.

And Sarah wasn’t the only one smil­ing thanks to a sy­ringe. Of the 74 peo­ple in the study – all of whom had been di­ag­nosed with ma­jor de­pres­sion – half were given Botox and the other half saline placebo in­jec­tions in the “frown” mus­cles be­tween the eye­brows. Six weeks later, 52 per­cent of pa­tients who’d been in­jected with Botox felt sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter, com­pared with just 15 per­cent of pa­tients who didn’t get the real stuff. In fact, the scores of the Botox re­cip­i­ents on a de­pres­sion-rat­ing scale were down al­most 50 per­cent, com­pared with 21 per­cent for the group who could still scowl. Sur­pris­ingly, even when par­tic­i­pants were able to sleuth out which shot they’d re­ceived – and only about half could tell – it had no bear­ing on whether or not they felt bet­ter. In short, if you can’t frown, you can’t feel down.

The no­tion that a grin or a gri­mace can ac­tu­ally in­flu­ence your emo­tions is noth­ing new, says Mary­land der­ma­to­logic sur­geon Eric Finzi, a co-au­thor of the Ge­orge­town study and au­thor of the 2013 book The Face Of Emo­tion: How Botox Af­fects Our Mood And Re­la­tion­ships. Back in the 1870s, Charles Dar­win the­o­rised that our fa­cial ex­pres­sions don’t just tele­graph happy or sad to the world but that they can also cre­ate and en­hance those emo­tions. Shortly af­ter, the philoso­pher and psy­chol­o­gist Wil­liam James wrote, “SmoothSmooth the brow, brighten the eye.” Th­ese guys­guy were on to some­thing, says Nor­man Ro Rosen­thal, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at G Ge­orge­town and the study’s other coau­thor. The mus­cles of the face send feed­back di­rectly to the brain via the cra­nial nerves, not through the spinal cord. “I call th­ese the ‘hot wires’ to the brain,” says Rosen­thal. There’s even more com­pelling ev­i­dence in a rare neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion called Moe­bius syn­drome, wherein cer­tain m mus­cles of peo­ple’s faces don’t func­tion, so they can’t smile or frown, he says. Be­caus Be­cause of this, it ap­pears that “their ca­pac­ity for hap­pi­nesshap­pine or sad­ness can be ham­pered.” Yet to some, thishi may seem like a vastly over­sim­pli­fied way to ex­plain de­pres­sion, which, af­ter all, can be so com­plex, says Josie Howard, a psy­chi­a­trist in San Fran­cisco. That’s why peo­ple who have se­ri­ous de­pres­sion shouldn’t toss their meds and aban­don ther­apy just yet, says New York psy­chi­a­trist and der­ma­tol­o­gist Amy Wech­sler. “De­pres­sion has al­ways been some­thing that’s best treated by a range of things, and I think this may well be a pow­er­ful new tool in our ar­se­nal,” says Wech­sler.

Many doc­tors also note that they’ve had pa­tients say that they’ve no­ticed a mood boost af­ter get­ting their fore­head smoothed. More than six mil­lion cos­metic Botox pro­ce­dures were per­formed in 2013 – and who knows how many pa­tients ac­tu­ally felt it was a twofer. “I could see this be­com­ing some­thing that many women seek out to erase wrin­kles and feel a bit hap­pier,” Howard says.

But for the nearly 15 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who suf­fer from de­pres­sion, this could be the big­gest thing since Prozac, not to men­tion a life­saver, says Finzi. He re­calls one pa­tient who cred­ited Botox with zap­ping sui­ci­dal thoughts – urges that re­turned as soon as the treat­ment wore off. To that end, Botox’s par­ent com­pany, Al­ler­gan, is cur­rently in Phase II clin­i­cal tri­als for its use in treat­ing ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der in women. The bot­tom line: Rosen­thal pre­dicts that Botox will be­come a “stan­dard treat­ment for de­pres­sion in the fu­ture.” For her part, Sarah rel­ished the re­sults so much that once they be­gan to wear off, she went back to Finzi for more shots, and has done so ever since. “I’m not afraid to see what would hap­pen if I stopped,” she says. “But I def­i­nitely don’t want to. My face just feels hap­pier.”

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