Is Botox Capable of ‘Fixing’ More Than Just Your Face?
Studies have shown a link between Botox and mental health. 
Studies have shown a link between Botox and mental health. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Is Botox Capable of ‘Fixing’ More Than Just Your Face?

It has never been easier to tweak the way you look. The cosmetic industry is booming with products, procedures and supplements to help you meet your desired standards of beauty by ‘toning’ your complexion, ‘fixing’ your features and in the process, even ‘freezing’ your age.

But is that all? Is the impact of these procedures restricted to the tangible and the external?

Botox and Mental Health: A Link Worth Exploring?

While the link between Botox and mental health problems may be little known to consumers, researchers have conducted numerous experiments to indicate that it may be plausible.

  • A small trial including 10 participants suffering with depression found that injecting them with Botox in their glabellar frown lines significantly reduced depression symptoms in nine of them, with mood improvements in the 10th one as well.
  • A 2012 study looked at 30 people with symptoms of depression who were already receiving treatment with antidepressants. Half of them were given Botox injections and the other half was given placebo saline injection.“Participants who received a Botox injection reported a 47.1 percent decrease in their symptoms 6 weeks after a single injection. The placebo group noted a 9.3 percent reduction.”
  • Similarly, a 2017 study found that symptoms of depression improved more in the participants who received Botox compared to those who received a placebo.
  • According to a 2013 study, the maximum effect of the Botox injection occurred within the first 8 weeks after treatment.
  • In an article in Elle, dermatologists discussed how Botox makes many people feel better about themselves, and thus, changes their moods for the better.

But there seems to be no simple answer to the question: Why does this seem to happen?

Also Read : Botox Might be Effective in Treating Migraines: Study

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Facial Expressions & Emotions: What Comes First?

Can facial expressions influence emotions?
Can facial expressions influence emotions?
(Photo: iStockphoto)

We smile when we’re happy, frown when we’re concerned, and sulk when we are sad.

But is it always in that order?

Apparently not. In psychology, ‘facial feedback hypothesis’ suggests that facial expressions don’t just reflect, but even influence emotions and moods — by magnitudes that are still not certain.

Refuse to express a passion, and it dies.
William James, American Philosopher and Psychologist 

According to a study in Encyclopedia of Social Psychology,

“Facial expressions are believed to have a direct influence on the experience of affect. This hypothesis goes back to Charles Darwin, who wrote that the expression of an emotion intensifies it, whereas its repression softens it.”

Ms Anavila Lochan, Assistant Professor in the department of Psychology, Delhi University, explains,

Facial feedback hypothesis is one of the archaic but widely quoted explanation for emotions. It suggests that our facial muscles movements send a kind of feedback message to the brain that influence our emotional experience. For example, going by this hypothesis, if you constantly (or even forcibly) smile in a party, you are likely to find the event more enjoyable.
Anavila Lochan

So What Does Botox Have to Do with It?

Botox is a brand name for a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It is a non-surgical cosmetic treatment that is used to treat wrinkles by temporarily ‘paralyzing’ muscles.

According to WebMD,

Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. The injected muscle can’t contract. That makes the wrinkles relax and soften.  

It is usually used on forehead lines, crow’s feet, frown lines and even lips, chin and corners of the mouth and neck.

Therefore, by paralyzing facial muscles and restricting its movement and expressions, Botox might be positively influencing your mood — if the facial feedback hypothesis is really at play.

Also Read : Not Just For Frown Lines, Botox Jabs Can Save Heart Patients Too

...and Insecurities?

Is the ‘look good-feel good’ logic applicable?
Is the ‘look good-feel good’ logic applicable?
(Photo: iStockphoto)

“I recently interviewed a five-year-old. She was supposed to describe to me how a beautiful girl looks like, and her ideas were no different from many of ours — green eyes, very light skin colour, long hair rosy lips and small pointed nose”, narrates Anavila Lochan.

The idea to ‘look a certain type’ is so ingrained in our psyche that any diversion can cause anxiety and other depressing emotions. This plays a very central role in how we understand and conceptualize our sense of self. So much so, that it starts governing our life choices.

Social validation, which is strengthened by media and popular culture, drives many of these choices.

So when you use these products and treatments that promise to help you become that perfect self, you may end up feeling complete, confident, positive and more efficient. Botox, in this light, literally fills the dents on your dilapidated self!
Anavila Lochan

Another possible explanation for the rising demand of Botox and the resultant feeling of upliftment, she believes, is the age-old fascination that humans have with death and ageing and their constant desire to control it.

In this struggle, Botox and other similar cosmetic procedures seem to give us contentment of reversing the process or being ‘in control’. Of course, these narratives are not explicit and are largely unconscious.
Anavila Lochan

Thus, unattainable standards of beauty set by the media and the cosmetic industry, body-image issues and associated disorders — all may directly impact a person’s self-esteem and confidence. Botox comes as a savior, and pretends to take all that away.

The positive emotions that one may experience after Botox may actually be similar to the feeling of self-assurance and confidence that a perfectly applied lipstick or a good-hair day may bring about.

Also Read : Botox Might Freeze Your Face But is it the Future of Weight Loss?

Experts Warn Against Oversimplification

India is one of the countries with the highest rate of depression.
India is one of the countries with the highest rate of depression.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

FIT approached Havovi Hyderabadwalla, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist and Co-founder of ‘Mind Mandala’, who explained,

The amount we know about the brain is still very little. Mental health issues happen at an extremely internal and hormonal level. Even in the studies conducted on the issue, the role that Botox must have played exclusively (without any impact by the antidepressants) is not conclusive. 
Havovi Hyderabadwalla

Anavila Lochan also had a similar view.

Though studies have posted some success on clinically depressed patients, the procedure is too simplistic to deal with complexity of human emotions. In my opinion, it is unethical to paralyze one to experience emotions naturally and one should refrain from getting Botox done solely for this purpose. Mental health concerns can’t be this simplified.
Anavila Lochan

In UK this year, high street retailer Superdrug decided to introduce tougher mental health checks before performing Botox, following criticism by the NHS.

Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said the injections risked fuelling mental health disorders — leaving it up to health services to pick up the pieces.

It is, therefore, recognized that Botox cannot be a long-term solution for underlying mental health issues (if they do exist in certain people). Even if the study results are to be believed, this ‘mood upliftment’ is only temporary, depending on the amount of time that the procedure’s effect stays.

Moreover, it would make the consumer (or patient) permanently rely on Botox to feel better.

A holistic approach towards mental health treatments cannot be over-emphasized.

Also Read : Forget Botox, Wipe Out Wrinkles With These Yoga Asanas

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