Botox enthusiasts rave about its wrinkle-destroying properties.
But researchers believe the injections may have another benefit — warding off the blues.
And it’s not just depression. German scientists think it could also help patients with borderline personality disorder, who often suffer from depression.
Botox works by relaxing the muscles in the face to smooth out lines and wrinkles.
Researchers claim that the same effects, which last for three months, are responsible for any mental health benefits.
By preventing people from frowning – by freezing the necessary forehead muscles – recipients can, according to their theory, not experience as intensely negative moods.
The Hanover Medical School team said Botox “could play a role” in treating mental illness.
Botox, which lasts for three to four months, works by relaxing the muscles in the face to smooth out lines and wrinkles. Researchers say the ability to prevent people from frowning — by freezing the forehead muscles it takes to do so — keeps recipients from experiencing negative moods so intensely
WHAT IS BOTOX?
Botox injections relax the muscles in the face to smooth out lines and wrinkles.
It’s not permanent – it usually lasts about 3 months.
In the UK, the cost of Botox injections can range from around £100 to £350 for each treatment, depending on the clinic and the area to be treated.
Botox injections for cosmetic reasons are not available on the NHS.
The procedure, which usually only takes 10 minutes, involves injecting botulinum toxin into the facial muscles with a very fine needle.
It then takes about two to three days to start working and up to three weeks to see the full effect.
Side effects include headache, a frozen look, facial weakness and bruising, swelling and redness where the needles have gone into the skin.
However, Botox can also be used to treat medical conditions.
These include abnormal contractions of the eye, conditions that cause muscle pain and stiffness, such as cerebral palsy, and excessive sweating.
dr. Axel Wollmer, a psychiatrist at Semmelweis University and senior author of the study, said: “The World Health Organization estimates that the number of people suffering from depression is about 280 million.
‘Existing treatments such as psychotherapy or antidepressants do not work well enough for about a third of patients, so there is a need to develop new treatment options, and this is true [Botox] injections could play a role.’
The team examined data from 45 women collected between 2016 and 2019 as part of a clinical trial.
They all had borderline personality disorder – a mental illness that causes patients to experience emotional instability, disturbed thinking patterns and impulsive behavior.
About half received a single shot of Botox in their glabellar, the area between the eyebrows where frown lines occur.
The placebo group received 20-minute acupuncture sessions — one at the start of the study and a second two weeks later.
Participants received an MRI scan and completed tests that ranked their BPD symptoms before and after their treatment.
The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reportsshow that after four weeks, volunteers in both groups reported a decrease in their symptoms of the disorder.
However, after treatment, only the Botox recipients also reported showing less impulsive behavior.
The researchers said this finding was consistent with brain scan data, which showed there was more activity in their motor cortex — a part of the brain involved in control and planning.
Scan results also showed that those given Botox saw the activity calm down in the amygdala region of their brain, which processes fear.
The team said their study provides ‘first evidence’ that Botox ‘can change’ central neurobiological and behavioral aspects of borderline personality disorder’.
They suggested this was due to the toxin interrupting the interaction between the forehead muscles and the brain, which in turn alters people’s emotional response.
Negative moods cause the muscles between the eyebrows to contract, causing frown lines.
But Botox effectively paralyzes these muscles.
The close link between mood and facial expression — known as the facial feedback theory — means that people who are unable to furrow their brows experience their negative emotions less intensely, says Professor Tillmann Krüger, one of the authors of the study.
“A relaxed forehead makes you feel more positive, as it were,” he said.
And on top of the borderline personality disorder findings, Professor Krüger said Botox “works just as well for depression.”
A 2021 study by his team found that Botox injections boosted mood and attenuated symptoms of depression and anxiety.
He explains: ‘The treatment has several advantages at the same time: since the paralyzing effect lasts for three or more months, injections only need to be given at these intervals.
“The infrequent injections are also less expensive than some other therapy options and have very good tolerance and acceptance among patients.”
The researchers noted that doctors are not yet offering Botox as a treatment for mental illness.
However, Professor Krüger said he hopes this will change when the mechanism for his team’s findings is better explored.