When looking for a depression treatment you most likely don’t even consider Botox; that’s for lines and wrinkles, isn’t it? Well, Dermatologist Dr Eric Finzi has published a book arguing that how your face looks plays a role in how you feel.
The connection between facial expression and emotion is not a new idea. Indeed there is quite a bit of research on what is called the ‘facial feedback hypothesis.’
Singer, Dannii Minogue spoke publicly about her use of botox following the death of her best friend and while her sister had breast cancer. She said she felt sad and depressed and didn’t want to look at her face.
Why botox is used as a depression treatment
A substantial quantity of research has suggested that the expression of emotion can be changed through a process of feedback from facial muscles. In fact going deeper into the field of body feedback shows it is not only your facial expressions but also your whole body posture that affect how you feel.
The original idea that physical feedback affected emotion was originally proposed by Charles Darwin. But now there is experimental evidence for the validity of this view and of course we have all heard that smiling when you are down is beneficial.
Change your expression; change your mood
The academic research on the facial feedback hypothesis does support the common sense view that changing your facial muscle positions affects your emotions. If you feel down this will be reflected on the canvas of your face. The effect of expressing your emotions on your face seems to be to increase the intensity of the emotion. So if you feel down and you also look down your total experience is of an increased or more intense experience of emotion. Conversely if you feel happy and you also reflect this good mood on your face this will increase the overall experience of happiness.
How Botox works as a depression treatment
The important point that Dr Finzi wants to emphasise is that if you inhibit the facial expression of low mood or depression then it can often reduce the overall intensity of the emotion. Dr Finzi’s proposed solution is to freeze the face with botox to prevent the muscles that create the furrowed eyebrows and frown from functioning. No frown equals lessened experience of low mood.
A different viewpoint
I take no issues with the science used as evidence in Dr Finzi’s book nor do I argue with the facial feedback hypothesis research, but I do take a different viewpoint altogether:
In my view depression is a consequence of something else. It is an outcome not a first cause. Therefore if you treat the outcome with some form of medical intervention then you do not change the cause of the problem.
This is the same argument I have with the seemingly overuse of antidepressant meds. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that the use of antidepressant drugs has soared nearly 400% since 1988, making the medication the most frequently used by people ages 18-44.
My view is that antidepressants purport to treat depression and anxiety but they only treat the outcome they do not touch the cause of low mood or depression which is why there is a high relapse rate following cessation of these drugs.
In fairness the pharmaceutical industry would state that they believe that depression is a biological problem that results from hypothesised chemical imbalances in the brain. But this remains a hypothesis without conclusive proof of its validity.
Treat the cause
Therefore Dr Finzi;s work and the work of others that it is build follows in the tradition of treating a problem that is caused by something else. Why not treat the actual problem instead?
The most effective depression treatment
There are no side effects from CBT therapy and because you learn about the causes of depression and how to treat it you gain something valuable you can keep.
Knowledge and wisdom, these twins will keep you safe and help you steer clear of low mood and depression in the future.
It’s better to stamp on depression by learning what causes it and how to defeat it.
Make it irrelevant to your life journey. Then you won’t have to freeze your face for the whole of your life and you will still be able to smile when you want to.