Could Botox improve your mood? 


While it is not a substitute for the effects of traditional prescribed medications, there have been quite a few studies showing compelling evidence that Botox can help fight depression. This means that changing the way your facial muscles respond to stress and sadness can actually make you less overwhelmed by such feelings!


The Hypothesis.

The Facial Feedback Hypothesis was first presented over a century ago by the legendary psychologist William James.   The hypothesis, now confirmed by a great deal of data, describes how one’s facial expressions influence their moods. According to researchers, assuming a particular facial expression increases the intensity of an emotion such as anger or anxiety.  Conversely, impeding the expression decreases the associated emotion.  Hence, when Botox prevents excessive furrowing of the brow, for example, it can also relieve feelings of anxiety or sadness.


The well respected psychologist and personality theorist Silvan Tomkins wrote, “The face expresses affect both to others, and to the self, via feedback, which is more rapid and complex than any stimulation of which the slower moving visceral organs are capable.”   He believed that each emotion was associated with a facial expression and that people feel the emotions, subconsciously, based on the awareness of their own facial expressions.


FDA Approval.

While Botox has a number of FDA approved uses (chronic migraines, excessive sweating, muscle spasms, etc.), Allergan, the maker of Botox, has progressed to the final phase of FDA approval of Botox for depression.


In one study of 74 people suffering from depression, 52% of participants who received Botox reported a significant drop in symptoms.  Not only did they feel better quickly, but the psychological results lasted weeks longer than the cosmetic results!  And imaging studies of the brain showed that Botox of the frown lines quieted the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with the emotions of anger, fear and anxiety.


The bottom line:

Botox makes it harder to frown, many people who have been properly treated feel less depressed. For a deeper understanding of how facial expressions affect our mood, check out Eric Finzi MD’s book, The Face of Emotion, an insightful mix of historical data and personal accounts.