A Botox jab for your depression?

It sounds like a strange prescription, but that is what some patients have been receiving in the United States.

As early as 2014, psychiatrists Norman Rosenthal and Eric Finzi published a study showing that when people with major depression opted for Botox, about half of them reported a drop in symptoms six weeks later, compared with 15 per cent of the people given a placebo.

The remission of depressive symptoms has nothing to do with cosmetic improvement, as many patients without any lines do report fewer symptoms after Botox, Dr Finzi told The New Paper in an e-mail interview.


Rather, it is because facial expressions are part of the circuit of the brain related to mood.

The assistant professor of psychiatry at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington said: “Specifically, the frown muscles, between the eyebrows, are involved in the emotions of sadness, anger and fear.

“Treatment of the frown muscles with botulinum toxin temporarily – about three months – prevents the face from expressing these emotions and feeds this information back to the limbic system of the brain that is involved with these emotions and depression.

“Botulinum toxin treatment of the frown has been shown to inhibit the amygdala, which is overactive in depression.”

Building on Dr Finzi and Dr Rosenthal’s 2014 study, Allergan – the maker of Botox – tried to replicate their findings on a larger scale with its own study.

Last month, Allergan moved the wrinkle-buster into late-stage clinical trials as a therapy for major depressive disorder (MDD) in women.

If proven effective, it will join the list of antidepressants to combat MDD, also known as clinical depression.