Treating depresssion with Botox (!) and what this means for psychological treatment

Treating depresssion with Botox (!) and what this means for psychological treatment

The  New York Times published an interesting article on 3-23-14 about a study using Botox (!) to treat depression. It is written by psychiatrist, Richard Friedman, who reported, “Six weeks after the injection (½ had Botox and ½ had saline), 52 percent of the subjects who got Botox showed relief form depression, compared with only 15 percent of those who received the saline placebo.

He goes on to discuss the implications of these findings, including brief discussion of the (more psychological) theory that “your expression and exert a powerful influence on your mood” and an opposing, (more neurological) theory, “facial expressions may feed information back to our brain and influence our feelings.” He also discussed, again briefly, “outside-in” or “somatic” treatments for depression, such as light box therapy, but concludes, at last based on my reading, that there are significant implications for more traditional “talk therapy” treatment: perhaps people who smile more (even if their smile is artificially induced by Botox) may be treated differently. He concludes, “(Depressed people) insist that only once they feel better will it make sense for them to rejoin the world, socialize and start smiling. Their therapists would be well advised to challenge their inverted sense of causality and insist that they will start feeling better after they reengage with the world (italics added).

The article may be accessed at:

Richard Sethre, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist

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