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Depression Is More Than a Wrinkle

Everyone is talking about Botox and it’s not for the reasons you think.  The New York Times has praised Eric Finzi, M.D.’s new book The Face of Emotion: How Botox Affects Our Mood and Relationships as the first book to investigate how Botox can be used to cure depression.

Finzi’s research involved injecting Botox into the muscles involved in frowning, rendering it impossible for these patients to frown for up to six months. Apparently, a majority of these patients reported feeling less depressed after the injections.  His conclusion? If we can’t express sadness, we can’t feel it.

This begs many follow-up questions. For example, isn’t it possible that Botox can also impact one’s ability to express joy?  Eye muscles are essential to form a smile.  So, for Dr. Finzi’s Botox injections to “cure” depression, would patients also have to swear off injecting, or paralyzing, the smile muscles that cause those pesky crow’s feet?  Or maybe this would be a “cure” for mania?  And if that’s starting to sound crazy, what about Botoxing angry people’s hands so they can’t form fists or hold guns, or Botoxing jaw muscles so overweight people can’t eat so much.  I take it to this extreme to emphasize the absurdity of treating something as complex as depression with something, anything, simple. 

Americans appear transfixed by the quick-fix. Think Prozac, Valium, Grapefruit Diet, Frontal Lobotomies, Electric Shock, Rogaine etc. These may have helped some people but have certainly not fixed any complex problems.  In fact, these “cures” have caused their own problems. Downer alert: there is no quick fix for depression. Just like there is no simple answer to weight loss, chest pain, insomnia, world hunger or world peace.  So, let me be one of the minority voices of reason in this latest quick-fix maelstrom.

These approaches to combat depression aren’t sexy, easy or in the news but they have stood the test of time:

• Eat a healthy diet when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full to avoid wild fluctuations in sugar and other nutrients that can impact your mood.

• Exercise consistently, not necessarily strenuously.  Exercise has been proven to be as effective, if not more so, than medication to improve depressed moods. 

• Get an adequate amount of sleep by learning healthy sleep habits.  A sleep study can determine whether you have a sleep disorder that can cause depression symptoms. 

• Get a physical to rule out medical causes that can be contributing to your mood like thyroid problems, cancer, vitamin deficiencies etc.

• Rid your life of toxic relationships with people who are violent or not overall compassionate, warm and positive.                                                                                                                

• Understand your emotions are valuable resources and not necessarily to be avoided.  If you can’t feel sad, how can you grieve a loss? If you can’t feel angry, how will you know when you are being mistreated?  Consider therapy to help you figure out and combat negative thought patterns as well as to learn better coping mechanisms for stress which can also fuel depression.

Your time is better spent on tending to your depression instead of applying the next band-aid solution.  Fixing depression takes insight not injections, analysis not paralysis and understanding not underestimating possible causes.  

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Laura F. Dabney , M.D.

Laura F. Dabney, M.D., trained at Eastern Virginia Medical School and practiced emergency, in-patient and consult-liaison psychiatry at all the area hospitals including Sentara Norfolk General and the Veteran’s Hospital in Hampton. As a doctor of psychiatry, she treats patients with medication as well as all of today’s popular therapy techniques. As a physician, she can figure out if your symptoms are due to a medical or an emotional problem. Many medical problems, such as hypothyroidism, can cause emotional symptoms and thus be mistaken for a psychiatric problem. A medical background provides Dr. Dabney with the ability to give you an accurate, safe diagnosis. Dr. Dabney keeps up to date with her medical training as a member of various professional organizations. For more information, visit www.drldabney.com, call 757-340-0800, or email dabneyoffice@gmail.com.

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