While anti-wrinkle products like Botox are generally known for helping to reduce fine lines and facial wrinkles, an interesting study has now revealed that botulinum toxin (BoNT) injections can be effective in alleviating symptoms of depression.
The report, published on July 30 in Scientific Reports, presented the findings of the analysis of more than 40,000 Botox treatment reports among 13 million postmarketing safety reports in the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS).
The study found that patients who received BoNT injections to treat hyperhidrosis, facial wrinkles, migraine prophylaxis, spasticity, and spasms had a significantly lower number of depression reports than patients undergoing different treatments for the same conditions.
This is certainly an interesting finding for anyone who uses Botox regularly or is suffering from depression and seeking treatment. However, it doesn’t mean you can go and get a prescription for injections quite yet.
Scientific report findings
It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that there are 264 million people in the world who suffer from depression. Unfortunately, nearly one-third of patients do not find therapeutic treatment to be effective in minimising their symptoms.
Statistics surrounding depression have inspired clinicians to look for other ways to treat the illness. BoNT/Botox injections have been included with treatments like electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and ketamine infusions as part of the ongoing investigation of how to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
The results appear to confirm what science has already begun to acknowledge, with the report stating that “patients who received BoNT injections to treat hyperhidrosis, facial wrinkles, migraine prophylaxis, spasticity, and spasms, had a significantly lower number of depression reports when compared to patients undergoing different treatments for the same conditions. These findings suggest that the antidepressant effect of BoNT is significant.”
Interestingly, it wasn’t noted that Botox injections in any specific area of the body increased the likelihood of alleviating depression.
The report stated that “In our study, we analyzed 174,243 reports divided into eight BoNT-treatment-related cohorts to evaluate the significance and the dependence of the antidepressant effect on the site of administration. We confirmed the antidepressant effect of facial BoNT injections as they were investigated in previous clinical trials. To our surprise, the observed antidepressant effect RORs were significantly reduced for six out of eight indications/injection sites.”
In other words, it doesn’t seem to matter where someone has a Botox injection. People who were treated across a range of conditions and injection sites reported depression 40-88% less often than people who received different treatments.
Why does Botox alleviate depression?
Scientists studied thousands of people treated with Botox to confirm the antidepressant effect of facial BoNT injections. However, it is not yet 100% clear why this is the case.
One theory relates to ‘distributed muscle stress memory’. The report states that “Muscle tension in various body regions is a frequent symptom in depression and maybe both a psychomotor manifestation and a booster of depressed mood. Hence, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a well-established relaxation method in psychiatric treatment that relies on the induction of mental relaxation via tension and subsequent relaxation of skeletal muscles.”
So it is possible that the reduction in muscle tone caused by Botox injections may counteract depression. However, this is more of a hypothesis than a confirmed fact.
Another theory looks at ‘transneuronal transport’, with the report stating that “BoNT may undergo a targeted, transneuronal transport to central nervous system (CNS) structures that are involved in the regulation of mood and emotions.”
Again, the idea that Botox affects the CNS and therefore can minimise the symptoms of depression is just a hypothesis. Further investigation is required to confirm whether it is a fact.
Should you have Botox to treat depression?
This study is certainly intriguing and what it does confirm is that “the antidepressant effect of BoNT administered for various indications goes beyond the control of the intended disease states and does not depend on the location of the injection.”
However, the study was not clear about the exact doses required for treatment or even why Botox can work to alleviate the symptoms of depression, describing the different theories surrounding the alleviation of depression via Botox as “complex and ambiguous”.
The report concludes by stating that further studies will take place to confirm if Botox should or can be approved as a treatment for the symptoms of depression.
If you’re interested in learning more about Botox for depression, speak to a medical doctor. Alternatively, you can seek out this treatment for its current purposes, which include minimising fine lines and wrinkles, and for purposes such as reducing migraine, minimising Bruxism (tooth grinding), reducing muscle spasms, or controlling excess sweating. Always act on the advice of a medical professional and ensure your treatment is applied by someone who is qualified and experienced.