When I was 29, I received my first Botox treatment. I was working full-time at a mental health clinic, going to graduate school at nights, and generally exhausted all of the time. I often felt self-conscious of the lines on my forehead.
The promise of feeling better about myself won out over all of my fears about the needles. In fact, I remember that I went and received a treatment during my lunch break, and when I returned, my colleagues all commented that I looked “refreshed.” I kept the beauty secret to myself, but with a few injections, I had a little more confidence and a lot more energy to get me through some of the longest days of my career. Botox is now a permanent part of my beauty regimen.
THE IMPACT OF BOTOX ON MENTAL HEALTH: HOW IT WORKS
My personal experiences with beauty treatments have left me wondering: Is there any research supporting the mental health benefits of Botox or other beauty treatments? The answer is yes. While there are only a few studies that begin to explore this question, the results of one study show that Botox can lead to a decrease in depression. Researchers at the Hanover Medical School in Germany treated the frown lines of 42 patients reporting severe depression with Botox injections and found that their depression scores decreased by 27% (Thompson, 2017).
The researchers directly related the decrease in frowning to the decrease in depression scores, explaining that it interrupted a facial feedback loop. Facial expressions are so powerful in detecting mental health issues that new technologies for mental health treatments are using smart phones to detect depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder from facial expressions (Reddy, 2019). parents and children
Another important factor to consider when exploring the impact cosmetic procedures can have on overall mental health is the link between feeling good about your physical appearance and social engagement. Social engagement is a key factor in well-being, and those who isolate themselves are more likely to develop mental health conditions. Can cosmetic procedures help with this?
A recent study published in the Journal of Women and Aging found that satisfaction with physical appearance leads to more social engagement in aging women. A study of 123 women 65 and over found that the women who reported satisfaction with cosmetic features and physical appearance reported much higher rates of socializing than those that were not satisfied with these aspects of their appearance. In addition, the women who reported more satisfaction with cosmetic features and physical appearance showed lower rates of depression than those who lacked satisfaction with these aspects of their appearance (Sabik, 2017).
CONSIDERING BOTOX? ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS
If you are thinking about treating a cosmetic concern with Botox or another procedure, here are some helpful and practical steps to consider:
For the beginner to cosmetic procedures, consider ones that are not permanent. Botox is one procedure in which the effects go away within a few months.
Consult with several professionals before doing a procedure to see which would work best for you. Review their education and work credentials. Look at photos of their work to see the outcomes and choose your practitioner carefully.
Consider how much you are spending on creams, lotions, or other remedies to address facial features. Could it be economical to look into a cosmetic procedure that in the short term could cost more, but in the long term could save you?
What is your goal? Do you want to change your appearance or restore your skin to a more youthful look? If your goal is restorative, cosmetic procedures such as an IPL laser might be a great option for you. However, consider that some procedures might make you look worse before you look better (hello darker spots!) and take that into account when scheduling your appointment.
If you are looking to improve your well-being, Botox or any other cosmetic procedure is not a quick fix. In fact, experts in mental health prescribe activities that include many aspects of oneself: social, emotional, mental, and physical for the overall best results.
Arden (2009), a neuroscience expert who approaches treatment of depression by studying the brain, suggests:
Depression is associated with the under activation of your left prefrontal cortex. This means that you probably feel like withdrawing and isolating yourself. If you go with those feelings, you will feel even more depressed…the solution is to activate your left prefrontal cortex. This occurs when your approach and engage in behaviors when you least feel like it.
As we continue to make advances in science, we learn that humans are complex. Measures of well-being include positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment (Seligman, 2012). A study of college students found that experiences contributed to more happiness in the long-run than material possessions. After long periods of time, one could reflect on an experience and still feel the joy associated with it. However, the joy associated with possessions faded over time (Landau, 2009).
Practically speaking, if you want to improve your well-being, finding a therapist rather than a medical spa should be your first step. However, if you have done this and you continue to find yourself ruminating on an aspect of your appearance that is preventing you from participating in important life experiences and developing social connections, cosmetic procedures could be an excellent option for you to consider.