Botox: Not Just For Your Face Anymore. It's Also For Your Feelings

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While I’m in no way there yet, I have always thought of botox as something I might look into as I get older. I’m certainly not one-hundred percent into the idea, but it’s one of those keep-it-on-the-back-burner treatments for me. Who doesn't want to look young-ish forever?

However, there are certainly reasons to hesitate before going for an injection. While current research largely points to botox as being physically safe (as long as it’s administered correctly), the larger issue with botox is one I hadn’t even considered: botox messes with your emotions. And no, I’m not talking about the emotional effects of looking different, though there is certainly a point to be made there. But newer studies are showing that by freezing our facial muscles, we directly impact our ability to process emotions.

Smile And You'll Feel Better

It has long been established in the scientific community that our emotions are impacted by our facial expressions. "The Facial Feedback Hypothesis” can be traced as far back as 1872, when Charles Darwin wrote that: “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.” In other words, our facial expressions actually heighten the feelings we experience. Now studies are showing that we can harness botox's ability to minimize our facial expressions to impact our emotions in positive or negative ways.

Two recent studies at the University of Cardiff in Wales highlight this. In one study, researchers worked with patients who had had botox treatments for their crow’s feet, AKA their laugh lines, which form when we use the muscles around our eyes to smile deeply. After their botox treatment, patients reported more depressed feelings than they had felt previously.

In another related study, researchers found that when patients have botox injected into their frown lines, rather than their laugh lines, they experienced less feelings of depression compared to a non botox-ed test group. The botox subjects also reported no change to their feelings of physical attractiveness, which would imply their feelings were not impacted by their changes in appearance.

What this means is that, depending on where botox is applied, you may be able to alter you overall feelings of happiness or depression. Another study that highlights this, done at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, used MRI machines to scan the brains of botox recipients while they made angry faces. The study found that the botox recipients had much lower activity in the part of their brain associated with emotional processing: the amygdala, hypothalamus, and parts of the brain stem.

Inject Your Way To Happiness

Now, researchers are looking at using botox as a possible treatment for depression. In a recent out-patient study, diagnosed major-depressive subjects were randomly given either an injection of botox, or a placebo injection of saline into their frown muscles. The results showed a drastic difference between the two test groups. The botox injected subjects showed a major improvement in mood, which improved on average 47% after six weeks, compared with the placebo group at 21%. It looks like for those experiencing depression, botox may be a useful tool in the arena to fight it.

As for me and my quest to maintain ever-youthful skin through botox, I’m still on the fence. I have plenty of time to make a decision if I ever make one at all, but suffice it to say that I will be leaving my laugh lines alone. No wrinkle eraser is worth diminishing feelings of happiness. Call me crazy, but I'd rather be wrinkled and happy than baby-faced and miserable.

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