Botox is most famous for its remarkable ability to smooth out wrinkles, usually in the upper face – but soon, Botox could become a solution to a whole other kind of problem. You may already know that, at Revere, we can administer Botox for temporary relief from a variety of conditions including hyperhidrosis (excess sweating), overactive bladder syndrome and migraines. But, as a premiere Botox clinic on Harley Street, we’ve been excited to learn that Allergan, who own Botox, are testing its efficacy in treating a range of debilitating mental health issues.
Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are on the rise – whether because of increased willingness to speak out about mental health problems, better diagnostic methodology or because these conditions are simply becoming more common. According to MIND, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem over the course of one year. Mixed anxiety and depression has become the most common issue, affecting 7.8% of the population at any given time . Worse still, according to the same source, 20.6% will experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their life – clearly, this is a problem in grave need of being addressed.
While Botox may seem an unlikely formula for relief, trials of Botox as a treatment for depression and anxiety have shown early promise. A small-scale study of 74 people with major depressive disorder found that 52% of sufferers reported a drop in symptoms 6 weeks after being treated with Botox, compared to 15% of people given a placebo. Similar studies have gleaned similar results, with around 50-60% of people with depression benefitting from Botox .
These intriguing early results haven’t been fully explained, but it seems that Botox’s efficacy is linked to something called Facial Feedback Hypothesis, a theory which is gaining traction, especially amongst behavioural psychologists. In a nutshell, this theory suggests that our facial expressions influence our inner emotions, causing an emotional feedback loop where the brain fires out corresponding chemicals and hormones, perpetuating any feelings of depression or anxiety .
In tiny, precise doses, Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the facial muscles, preventing them from contracting and forming wrinkles. In slightly larger doses, Botox can interrupt these signals to a greater extent, preventing expressions from forming and therefore interrupting the facial feedback loop. It is believed that this is how Botox reduces depression and anxiety in some people – and Allergan is currently testing the substance to see if it could help with other mental health issues such as social anxiety.
Of course, when we administer Botox cosmetically, we are careful not to use a dose which would inhibit normal facial expressions. We’re very skilled at tailoring the amount of Botox used to ensure that the skin looks naturally smooth and moves in a normal way. However, should Botox prove useful for depression and anxiety, our doctors will be equally skilled in administering the right amount of Botox for this purpose.
If you’re interested in Botox’s uses, cosmetic or otherwise, get in touch with our supportive team and we’ll be happy to talk you through its advantages and limitations.