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Forcing a Smile: How Botox Helps Relieve Depression

What's the Latest?

Los Angeles dermatologist Eric Finzi has published two studies suggesting that Botox injections can relieve symptoms of depression by keeping the face from expressing sorrowful or painful emotions. The second study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, was coauthored with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School. "The study found a 47 percent reduction in scores on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale among those injected with Botox. The members of the control group, who were injected with saline, exhibited a 20.6 percent reduction."

What's the Big Idea?

Expressing emotion, it turns out, is an important part of experiencing emotion. A phenomenon known as the facial feedback hypothesis holds that because your face is such a sensitive area of the body, it communicates information to your brain about how you feel. "The idea is that you’re not just frowning because you’re sad; you’re also sad because you’re frowning. Emotions aren’t emotions at first; they’re thoughts, and the physiological reactions to those thoughts shape and magnify how we feel." This is also true of empathy, however. Without the ability to express sorrow at another person's sorrow, you may feel indifferent to their suffering. 

Read more at Pacific Standard

Photo credit: Poznyakov/Shutterstock

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