Introduction - What is Depression
What is Depression
Depression is in fact a part of our everyday lives. Almost everybody has felt depressed at some point or another in life – whether it was at the death of someone dear, or the parting of a friend, or the going away of a child to school, or the losing of a job. There are various instances in human life that can trigger feelings of glumness and despair.
But sometimes depression becomes a part and parcel of the personality of an individual. The person may feel depressed due to no rational reason at all. At such times, depression is known as clinical depression, or vishaada in Sanskrit. Statistics have shown that at least 16% of the world population is suffering from some form of clinical depression and need treatment for the same.
What is Depression
Depression or vishaada can be defined as a state of feeling melancholia, intense sadness or despair, which can interfere with the normal functioning of the person. Clinically, it is termed as severe depressive disorder or major depressive disorder.
There are different types of depression based on the severity of the symptoms.
(i) Mild Depression – Mild vishaada or depression is the kind of depression that is very commonly observed. This is a short-lived depression, whose effects wear off in a day or two. Scoring less marks in an examination or being cheated by someone are examples of causes that could lead to mild depression. The person who suffers from mild depression will not stop his or her daily activities completely, but will be disinterested in doing them.
(ii) Major Depression – Depression that lasts for a couple of weeks is major depression. This could be triggered by being jilted in love or by the death of someone dear. Major depression interferes in a huge manner with the day-to-day life of the person. Though the major depression may wear off in a couple of weeks, some effects of the depression could last throughout the person’s life.
(iii) Dysthymia – Dysthymia is a long term depression illness whose effects can last for as long as two years. There are alternating periods of minor and major depressions. Hence, dysthymia is also called as double depression.
(iv) Seasonal Affective Disorder – Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a special type of depression which affects people with certain climatic changes. The onset of autumn or the rainy season may trigger such kind of depressions. There is no apparent reason except the changing weather. Some people also feel depressed in particular months of the year even if the climate has not changed. As an example, if a beloved one has died in the month of February, the person might feel depressed every February month after that.
(v) Bipolar Disorder – This is what is termed in simple language as mood swings. A person suffering from bipolar disorder will suddenly change from being very happy to being very gloomy. This will lead to unpredictable nature of the person and he or she will find it difficult to make lasting friendships with other people.
Clinical depression is caused due a variety of causes. Some of them are given below:-
The number one cause of depression in the world today is strain in relationships. This happens both in married and in unmarried people. Married couples could have problems in their marital life, and unmarried people could have problems such as not being reciprocated in their love lives.
Depressions can be triggered by the death of a loved one.
Financial problems also exacerbate depression to a great extent. This type of depression is seen more in the urban cities where the cost of living is rapidly increasing.
Academic pursuits lead to large-scale depressions in teenagers. The quest of one-up-man-ship in school and college exams leads to lack of confidence and intense nervousness in youth, which can lead to depression. The same is true in sports where winning is considered very important.
Long term illnesses like cancers, paralyses, diabetes can cause depression. Similarly, some people suffer from depression at the thought of advancing age.
According to Ayurvedic principles, vishaada is caused by a vitiation of either the vata or the kaphadoshas.
Vata represents the air element, and praana vata is the sub-humor that is responsible for the proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system. Hence, vitiation in the praana vata results in feelings of depression.
Kapha represents the proper balance between the water and the earth elements. Among the kapha doshas, tarpaka kapha is responsible for the proper communication between the brain and the spinal cord via the cerebrospinal fluid that is continuous between them. Vitiation in the tarpaka kapha is a cause for vishaada.
People who are depressed show the following symptoms:-
Continuous feeling of sadness or blankness
A continual guilty conscience and no confidence in oneself
A pessimistic approach towards life
Loss of interest in activities such as outings, hobbies, work and even sex
Loss of energy or enthusiasm
Difficulty in focusing concentration and making decisive strategies
Regular stomach upsets
External symptoms such as crying and brooding
Being wary and fearful
Either weight loss due to poor appetite, or weight gain due to overeating
Vishaada does cause several complications in people. Some of them are enumerated below:-
If a minor depression is kept unchecked, then it may transition to a major depression or dysthymia, which can be a more serious condition.
Depression will affect the routine functioning of the individual. The person will find it difficult to concentrate in work, despite knowing fully well how important that particular work could be. Memory becomes erratic.
Due to being constantly in a depressed state, there could be a strain on other relationships of the person. For example, a man going under constant depression over the death of his parents could strain his relation with his wife.
There can be a serious toll over the involuntary functions of the body. Depression can increase the rate of heartbeat resulting in palpitations and even strokes.
Several people who are depressed may turn to smoking, alcoholism or drug addiction to obtain temporary releases.
People who are constantly in depression could develop suicidal tendencies or other socially dangerous vices if they are not counseled and treated at the proper time.
Though not much beneficial, some dietary strictures can be followed to allay the mind of depression.
Every person has a different treatment for depression, as depression is quite a private matter. The surest way of reducing depression is to engross yourself in activities that give you pleasure. This kind of treatment works more at a psychological level than at a physiological level. Some of the non-medicinal treatments for depression are as follows:-
Apart from this, there are certain herbs that Ayurveda has ascribed with curative properties for depression. A list of such herbs is given below with their specific action.
There are several therapies that Ayurveda suggests for the relieving of depression. A list of these therapies is given below:-