The way our facial expressions are linked with our emotions is a complex area of observation, with trials underway to figure out if managing our facial expressions artificially can augment our mental health. So far, the results are positive and interesting.
Muscle-relaxant anti-wrinkle injections are being used to determine if an antidepressant effect can be attained via the manipulation of facial muscles involved in negative emotions. That is, if we can’t frown anymore, can we make our anxiety and depression disappear? Seems like the answer is, in some cases, yes.
A study of 85 people with major depressive disorder gave either a placebo or muscle-relaxant anti-wrinkle injections into the corrugator and procerus frown muscles of the forehead (the frown line muscles). Subjects were evaluated at three and six weeks post-injections, with response rates being 52 per cent in the treatment group and 15 per cent in the placebo group. The next outcome measured was remission rate, with 27 per cent of the treatment group responding positively, versus 7 per cent of the placebo group. Six weeks after a single treatment, specific depression scores were reduced on average by 47 per cent in those in the treatment group compared to 21 per cent of those given the placebo. While this isn’t magic, it is useful information.
Another study looked into 30 people with major depression. In the 16-week follow-up period, there was a significant improvement in depressive symptoms in the treatment group, with six weeks post-injection seeing scores reduced on average by 47.1 per cent in the treatment group and 9.2 per cent in the placebo group. This treatment consisted of injection into the glabellar region, which resulted in a strong and sustained alleviation of depression in patients who were unresponsive to medication.
Further research examined major depression patients treated with muscle-relaxant anti-wrinkle injections into the glabellar frown lines. Two months after the injections, all patients were re-evaluated, and out of the 10 patients, nine were no longer depressed. The tenth patient had an improvement in mood.
This research supports the idea that facial muscles not only express, but regulate, mood states.