Botox: An Antidepressant


Botox is having a moment. Quite literally. December is the biggest month in a cosmetic doctor’s calendar as Botox bookings soar 20-25 per cent in the run-up to Christmas. And that’s a conservative estimate. Last year, the Harley Medical Group reported a 150 per cent surge in women having injections in the first two weeks of December.

But it’s not just vanity that’s calling women and men to the Botox chair. A desire to look ‘less sad’ is sparking a new aesthetic. “Many of my clients are coming in not for wrinkle-smoothing, but to look happier – especially during the party season,” explains cosmetic specialist Dr Michael Prager.

In fact, one study found that Botox can be effective in the treatment of depression. Research cited in Aesthetics Journal suggests nine out of 10 patients with major depressive disorder noticed a reduction in symptoms when treated with botulinum toxin, also known as Botox.

Botox, an antidepressant? How so? “The motion creates the emotion,” explains Dr Prager. “Evidence suggests when you create a physical state of happiness, it affects your mental state. So, if you lose the ability to frown, it makes you feel better.” Furthermore, psychologist Dr Richard Sherry says that when we relax the jowl muscles and deep frown lines that make us appear unhappy, it affects how others perceive us, which has a mirroring effect on our emotional wellbeing. For those whose resting face looks unhappy or angry, Dr Sherry believes Botox can create a change in their psychological state. “If you appear sad and stressed, it creates negative feedback from those you come into contact with, as our face is our main communication platform.”

Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at Cranley Clinic, says that deep frown lines between the eyebrows are the biggest culprits when it comes to looking unfriendly, or even angry. “Botox in this area not only reduces these lines, it opens up narrow eyes, which makes one appear more receptive to the outside world,” he says. Dr Lowe combines filler with Botox in tiny amounts around the mouth’s corners. “Injecting the small depressor muscles – just above the jawline at the corners of the mouth – lifts the angles of the mouth to help correct a depressed look.” However, renowned psychoanalyst and author of Bodies Susie Orbach argues that freezing muscles can have a converse effect. “There is research showing that constricting emotional expression can also constrict subtle feelings,” she explains.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair also urges caution and explains that, even if Botox gives you a short-term pick-me-up, only when you make genuine changes to your attitudes and beliefs will you know long-lasting happiness. “Unless you make a change within yourself, that feeling of happiness won’t last,” she says. “Moreover, Botox could become a crutch you return to for that short-term boost.” She believes that self-acceptance is key to psychological wellbeing. “Others are also drawn to those who are comfortable with themselves. In short, you become attractive when you fully accept yourself,” she adds.

Dr Prager explains that, for those who do decide to try Botox, some areas are best left alone. “I rarely inject into the crow’s feet, as these are our smile lines,’ he says. ‘If you take away the lines that express happiness, your face will lack empathy.” The trick with Botox, according to Dr Prager, is to create “the right balance of emotion in the face.’ As he warns: ‘Don’t overdo it – you don’t want to blank out expression altogether.”

“I haven’t had any plastic surgery. Despite what people think, this is my nose. I have had Restylane and Botox, but I don’t think of that as plastic surgery.”

“I have a crease between my eyebrows and use Botox to get rid of that, but that’s kind of it… I don’t want to be 20 any more.”

“I have done Botox and I loved it… I didn’t tell my husband and for about six months he kept saying, “Hello, Pretty!” Then I told him and he found it hilarious.”

“It’s just the tiniest sprinkle of Botox twice a year. I think most women do 10 units, but that freezes the face and you can’t move it. This is just one unit, and it’s just sprinkled here and there to take the edge off… I ain’t hiding anything.”

Image: Same