NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Using Botox to get rid of frown lines may be an effective treatment for depression, a test shows.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, U.S. Army veteran Vivian Cooke has long struggled with debilitating depression. She has tried alternative therapies and medication to cope with her symptoms.
“It wasn’t effective,” Cooke said. “Some side effects would be headaches or stomach ache.”
But then three years ago, she tried something different – after hearing about a study testing Botox to treat depression.
“We don’t believe it has anything to do with looks,” said Dr. Eric Finzi of the Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center.
Finzi said facial expressions are part of the circuit of the brain related to mood.
“Fear, anger and sadness all go through this muscle, so Botox basically inhibits the muscle and calms it down,” Finzi explained, “so it becomes more difficult to feel those negative emotions.”
The makers of Botox just announced the final phase of testing for depression will begin. Finzi said previous studies show between 50 and 60 percent of patients will benefit from the treatment.
“Our hope is eventually it will form a place as one of the tools to treat depression,” Finzi said.
The theory is that when you’re depressed, the brain causes facial frown lines. But the feedback from the facial muscles back to the brain reinforces the depression.
Botox is thought to break that feedback loop, allowing a more normal mental state.
Cooke said she noticed a change in her depression almost immediately.
“I found overall my mood was better on a day to day basis,” she said. “I had less problems with depression.”
And even though the study Cooke took part in is over, she said she will continue to receive the injections.
Because Botox typically wears off after a few months, the treatment may have to be repeated periodically if it works for depression. There is also the potential for a placebo effect.
Researchers are also testing whether Botox may be useful for bipolar disorder and social anxiety.