I just read a interesting study performed at the highly reputable School of Psychology at Cardiff University. In this paper the investigators wondered whether injections with botulinum toxin (botulinum toxin is the active ingredient in ‘Botox’) might be useful in cases of depression.
It has long been believed in psychological circles that the actual act of frowning itself can make us feel unhappier. This is believed to happen via facial feedback mechanisms. What this basically means is that if you frown, your brain ‘thinks’ you must be unhappy and provides the corresponding feeling to your facial expression. Cosmetic botulinum toxin treatment on the other hand temporarily reduces the activity of the facial muscles we need to frown.
So the question is, if we are no longer able to frown, would that lead to a less negative emotional state? In other words, can we ‘trick’ our brain (by not allowing our frown muscles to do their job) into ‘thinking’ that we must be happy? Lewis and Bowler put this theory to the test and compared the mood of people who had received cosmetic botulinum toxin treatment with people who had received other cosmetic treatments. Amazingly they found that cosmetic botolinum toxin treatment does indeed correlate with a significantly less negative mood.
Does this mean that people with depression should now receive botolinum toxin injections instead of counseling, psychotherapy and anti-depressants? A good friend of mine, Dr Malin, a lovely Norwegian psychologist practicing in London, comments “It has to be remembered that this study does not indicate that Botox can successfully treat depression and that it can as such replace other treatments for depression. I would therefore highly encourage anybody going through a depressed stage to seek appropriate psychological help.” I couldn’t agree more. However, this is a very interesting study and I am looking forward to further studies in this area.