Botox fanatics rave about its wrinkle-busting properties.
But researchers believe the injections might have another benefit — warding off the blues.
And it’s not just depression. German scientists think it might 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 these same effects, which last for three months, are responsible for any mental health benefits.
Preventing people from frowning — by freezing forehead muscles needed to do so — stops recipients from experiencing negative moods as intensely, according to their theory.
The team at Hannover Medical School said that Botox ‘could have a role’ in treating mental illness.
Botox, which lasts three to four months, works by relaxing the muscles in the face to smooth out lines and wrinkles. Researchers say its ability to stop people from frowning — by freezing the forehead muscles needed to do so — stops recipients from experiencing negative moods as 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 for around 3 months.
In the UK, the cost of Botox injections can vary from about £100 to £350 for each treatment, depending on the clinic and the area being treated.
Botox injections for cosmetic reasons are not available on the NHS.
The procedure, which usually only lasts 10 minutes, involves having botulinum toxin injected into the face muscles using a very fine needle.
It then takes around two to three days to start working and up to three weeks to see the full effect.
Side effects include, headaches, a frozen look, weakness in the face and bruising, swelling and redness where the needles went 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 study author, said: ‘The World Health Organization estimates that the number of people suffering from depression is approximately 280million.
‘Established treatments such as psychotherapy or antidepressants don’t work sufficiently for about one third of the patients so there is a need to develop novel treatment options, and this is where [Botox] injections could have a role.’
The team examined data on 45 women, gathered between 2016 and 2019 as part of a clinical trial.
They all had borderline personality disorder — a mental illness that causes sufferers to experience emotional instability, disturbed patterns of thinking, and impulsive behaviour.
Around half received a single Botox injection to their glabellar, the area between the eyebrows where frown lines occur.
The placebo group were given 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 ranking their BPD symptoms before and after their treatment.
The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, show that after four weeks, volunteers in both groups reported that their symptoms of the disorder eased.
However, after treatment, only the Botox recipients also reported that they engaged in less impulsive behaviours.
The researchers said this finding matched up with brain scan data, which showed that there was more activity in their motor cortex — a region of the brain involved in control and planning.
Scan results also showed that those who received Botox saw activity calm down in the amygdala region of their brain, which processes fear.
The team said their study provides the ‘first evidence’ that Botox ‘may modify central neurobiological and behavioural aspects of borderline personality disorder’.
They suggested that this was down to the toxin interrupting the interaction between the forehead muscles and the brain, which in turn changes people’s emotional response.
Negative moods cause the muscles between the eyebrows to contract, triggering frown lines.
But Botox effectively paralyses these muscles.
The close link between mood and facial expression — known as the facial feedback theory — means people unable to frown experience their negative emotions less intensely, according to Professor Tillmann Krüger, one of the study authors.
‘A relaxed forehead conveys a more positive feeling, so to speak,’ he said.
And on top of the border line personality disorder findings, Professor Krüger said Botox ‘works for depression just as well’.
A study by his team in 2021 found Botox injections boosted mood and weakened symptoms of depression and anxiety.
He explained: ‘The treatment has several advantages at once: since the paralysing effect lasts for three or more months, an injection also only needs to be given at these intervals.
‘The infrequent injections are also less costly than some other therapy options and have a very good tolerance and acceptance among patients.’
The researchers noted that medics do not yet offer Botox as a treatment for mental illness.
However, Professor Krüger said he hopes that this will change when the mechanism for his team’s findings have been better researched.