Around 5 weeks ago, I blogged about deciding to get Botox injections in my forehead to hopefully help in the management of my depression. I got the first injections at that time, and then got round two a couple of weeks later, for a total dose of 29 units, which was the amount used in the research studies that showed that Botox can have a beneficial effect on depressive symptoms.
The Botox was injected into the frown line areas, and the idea is to block the feedback loop of frowning reinforcing negative mood. For anyone who’s curious, botulinum toxin comes from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria and acts at the neuromuscular junction to cause muscle paralysis. Besides cosmetic use, it’s used for a number of different muscular disorders, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), and the in the prevention of migraine headaches. Effects are expected to last 3-4 months, although in the studies for depression the beneficial effect was found to last even longer.
It takes about 2 days to start noticing the effects of Botox injections, and 2 weeks to get the full effect. I would describe the feeling as numb but not numb. It feels numb much the same way as if your mouth was numb after going to the dentist and you couldn’t move the area. When I try to move the muscles in my forehead, I get that same sort of numb feeling. It’s not numb to sensory input, though, so I still feel touch, pressure, temperature, and other sensations.
What I’ve really noticed is how often I was frowning before. Because I get that numb sort of feeling when I try to move my forehead, I notice when my face is trying to frown. And it happens often, far more often than I would have guessed. In terms of outward appearance, when I try frown there are some little crinkles visible above the outer half of each eyebrow, but that’s it. When I raise my eyebrows in a surprised sort of expression, there’s limited movement, but one eyebrow raises more than the other one, a fun little quirk that my naturopathic doctors said she could fix but I actually kind of like.
So, is it helping with my mood? I’ll say a cautious maybe. I’m still having bad days and I have no resilience when it comes to situational stressors, but looking at my mood tracking app there has been a bit of an improvement over the last couple of weeks. It’s always hard to know what’s causing what, and there are probably other things that are helping, like the approach of spring probably and some more positive interpersonal interactions.
I’ll probably never really know for sure what effect if any the Botox is having, but I do like the idea that it’s getting in the way all the frowning I was apparently doing before. And at this point I’m willing to do pretty much anything, even if it’s only having a small impact.
My book Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis breaks down the different categories of DSM-5 diagnoses, explaining the diagnostic criteria and providing first-hand stories of the various illnesses. It’s available on the Mental Health @ Home Store, as well as Amazon and other major retailers.