Depression and an Ayurvedic Approach to Balancing Emotions

Date Posted:24 April 2012 

Depression affects people from all walks of life and affects women more often than men. Women are more vulnerable to depression, especially during or after times of hormonal changes such as pregnancy and after giving birth, the time just before or while menstruating, and during menopause. During these and other times in anyone’s life, balancing emotions can be difficult.

This article is intended for educational purposes and is not intended to treat or diagnose any illness. If you or someone you love has depression, it is recommended that you seek care from a licensed practitioner for a proper diagnosis, treatment and advice.

There are numerous types of depression and a range of many symptoms. This condition is as individualized as disorders come. Every depression type has its own symptoms and characteristics.

Types of Depression

Major Depression

Major depression is one of the most common types. Major depression, or clinical depression, as it is often called, is characterized by many symptoms and their combinations that affect an individual's ability to sleep, eat, work, and enjoy previously enjoyable activities. Everyone feels lonely, sad, or hopeless at times, but clinical depression takes it to an extreme and disabling level. A person may experience a single occurrence of major depression, but for the majority, it is either on-going or recurrent. For somebody affected by major depression, balancing emotions is nearly an impossible task on his or her own.

Chronic Depression

Chronic depression is the other most common type of this disorder affecting millions of people every year. Chronic depression is diagnosed when the depressive state has lasted two or more years. Unlike clinical depression, chronic depression is not typically disabling and the symptoms are not as severe. If you have chronic depression, it is possible for you to have episodes of major depression that come and go. The most common symptoms of chronic depression include a tendency to overeat or eat to try and mask your feelings, oversleeping, extreme or irrational sensitivity to rejection, lethargy, and moods that worsen or lighten in direct response to experienced situations.

Manic Depression

Manic depression is more commonly known as Bipolar Disorder. Manic depression is the most complex and perhaps least understood of all depression disorders. It is characterized by alternating periods of extreme elation or euphoria and major depression. Bipolarism has two subtypes - bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I is characterized by one manic episode with or without a clinical depressive period. Bipolar II is diagnosed based on a patient's history of at least one manic phase and one major depressive phase.

Seasonal Depression

Season depression, or SAD, tends to hit at the same time each year; it typically starts during the fall and abates by spring or the beginning of summer. There are some people that are affected by summer depression instead. People describe their symptoms as ongoing and unexplained sadness, total loss of energy or motivation, lack of concentration, and inability to enjoy activities. For some people, SAD hits especially hard during the holidays. Typical fall and winter depression includes anxiety or the inability to relax, hopelessness, a heavy feeling in the limbs, oversleeping, withdrawing from society, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, change in appetite, and weight gain.

Causes of Depression

There are believed to be eight causes of depression, but they may not begin to tell the whole story. Western medicine tends to focus on one point rather than looking at the interconnection of the mind, body, and spirit as Ayurveda and Ayurvedic health remedies do.

Biology

Researchers and experts readily agree that they do not know exactly how the brain works nor understand all of its functions. There are numerous studies that have shown certain parts of the brain do not work correctly in patients diagnosed with depression. Changes in neurotransmitters may also play a part in causing depression.

Genetics

Experts do not know if this is a matter of nature or nurture, but if depression runs in your family, your chances of it occurring are significantly increased.

Gender

Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, according to numerous studies. However, this may be in part to men being less likely to seek out a diagnosis or treatment of depression. Hormonal changes do appear to have some effect on balancing emotions and may be a factor.

Age

Elderly people have a higher rate of depression than other age groups. This could be explained by factors such as losing a spouse, lack of social support, poor diet, or inability to exercise.

Health Conditions

Individuals suffering from a serious illness or injury, such as cancer, paralysis, thyroid problems, diabetes, and chronic pain also have a higher risk of becoming depressed. Ayurvedic health remedies would take into account the root cause of the illness or injury to treat the body, mind, and soul, in order to make balancing emotions more effective.

Grief or Trauma

Grief after the loss of a child, loved one, family member, or friend is in and of itself a normal reaction; however, prolonged grief without addressing it can lead to depression. Trauma, such as emotional or physical abuse, violence, witnessing a disturbing event like a terrorist attack, or living through an event that took other people's lives can also lead to depression and post traumatic stress disorder if not properly addressed, acknowledged, and treated.

Major Life Changes

There are some life changes that can be joyful and exciting while others can lead to depression, such as getting a divorce, breaking off a long-term relationship, losing a job, losing your home in a fire or other means, or caring for a sick relative.

Substance or Medicinal Abuse

There are many substances and medications that can cause depression, whether they are abused or taken as prescribed. There are countless prescription medications that have symptoms similar to depression. Substance abuse will wreak havoc on every aspect of an individual from their mind to their body and their emotions. Balancing emotions will not be accomplished until the medication or abuse has been eliminated from the body and healing has begun.

Ayurveda and Emotional Health

Maharishi Ayurveda and Ayurvedic health remedies take a whole body approach to health and balancing emotions. Your mind, body, and emotions are so entwined that if one is off, the others will be soon as well.

Causes

Unresolved Emotional Pain

Many times, emotions become unbalanced, and an individual will experience mental disorders when there are unresolved issues either in their present or in their past. Depression, anxiety, and panic disorder are some of the more common manifestations of unresolved emotions. When emotional pain is suppressed and the root of the emotional pain is not addressed, the body's psychological energy is depleted. Over time, that depletion can cause depression.

Uncoordinated Senses

From an Ayurvedic standpoint, the heart, body, and mind are connected, whereas there is a disconnect between the individual's thoughts, emotions, and senses. In Ayurveda, the true seat of consciousness is the heart, not the brain. When there is any disruption, mental and emotional imbalance can occur.

Unbalanced Doshas

There are three dosha types in Ayurveda that comprise a person's constitution. The three dosha types are Vata, Kapha, and Pitta; most individuals are predominately one dosha type but may have a combination as well. There are three archetypes of depression that follow the characterizations of the three doshas. Depression, like all disorders, takes time to develop. There are usually warning signs in the beginning that there is something wrong, but these usually go unnoticed in today's fast-paced lifestyle. Depending on the individual's specific dosha type and the disturbance they are experiencing within it, there are three types of depression they may have.

Airy Depression

This type of depression occurs when there is a disturbance in the Vata dosha and is primarily manifested as a lack of energy or lethargy as the main symptom. Anxiety and nervousness for no apparent reason may also be felt as a secondary symptom. The person experiencing a disturbance in their Vata dosha will have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. They may also get an adequate night of sleep, but they will not feel well rested or refreshed in the morning.

Earthy Depression

For Kapha individuals who have trouble balancing emotions, they may feel like they cannot find their stability or security and end up feeling like they have the weight of the world bearing down on their shoulders. Being overly sensitive to small issues, lack of interest, and lethargy are also experienced by those with an imbalance in their Kapha dosha. Excessive sleep or the feeling of needing to sleep constantly is also a burden with this type of depression. Helping a Kapha individual in balancing emotions is challenging. The first step in overcoming an earthy depression is getting past the inertia, and many times, this cannot be achieved without help.

Burning Depression

With this type of depression, a disturbance in the Pitta dosha causes a block in the metabolic functions of the body. Frustration, irritability, and anger often mask the feelings of sadness. This person's sleep is rarely restful, and they often spend most of the night tossing and turning.  Wrestling thoughts within their own mind is also a common symptom. Most of the time, the perturbation in the Kapha dosha is a result of perceiving that there are blocked opportunities in the person's life, they are not living the life they dreamed, or they are stuck in an unhealthy and overly stressful situation. Being hypercritical of oneself and approaching life with an inappropriate intensity may be triggers for the disturbance. In order for this burning depression to abate, the Pitta individual must cool their fiery constitution.

Balancing Emotions through Ayurvedic Health Remedies

Ayurveda works by balancing emotions through holistic means and approaching it through the mind, emotions, and body. It starts by preventing imbalanced emotions in the first place by focusing on a healthy diet, reducing stress, exercise, and cultivating a positive attitude towards life.

Ayurveda defines health as a total and complete equilibrium within the body, and it should be every individual's goal to reach that state of balance. Ayurveda defines a healthy mental state as spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being. The ancient Ayurvedic master, Charaka, places the true state of consciousness in the heart, not the mind, as modern psychology does. Therefore, the approaches to remedying a mental condition like depression are vastly different.

The ideal state of the mind is considered sattvic, while an agitated and disturbed mind is rajasic. One of the first places Ayurveda begins to look for disturbances is in the accumulation toxins within the body. There are three types of toxins; ama is the most common. Ama is a sticky and noxious by-product from poor digestion or when your digestive track is overloaded with the wrong food choices.

If ama is not eliminated and cleared out, it can eventually leave the digestive system and enter other areas of the body causing disturbances throughout the body and the mind. Once this sticky buildup settles in a particular area of the body, it begins to mix with malas, another type of waste, and body tissues, dhatus, which causes it to become reactive. Once ama is mixed with malas and dhatus, it creates a new type of more powerful and damaging ama known as amavisha.

The last type of toxin is what would be considered environmental toxins in today's time. This is any toxin that comes from outside of the body, such as the harmful ingredients in most of the world's food supply. Examples of this type of toxin include genetically-modified food, pesticides, food grown in unnatural fertilizers, and chemicals sprayed into the air. Monosodium glutamate, high fructose corn syrup, sulfites and sulfates, nitrates, and artificial flavoring, coloring, and dyes are also considered toxic in Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic Treatment Methods

One of the best Ayurvedic health remedies starts with your diet. An ama-reducing diet and a whole body cleanse can get you well on your way to balancing emotions. The ama-reducing diet is a relatively simple one, incorporating plenty of fresh home-cooked meals and avoiding processed and junk foods.

More specifically, this diet would include organic fruits and vegetables, easily digestible proteins like lentils and mung beans, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, cous cous, millet, amaranth, barley, and rye. A great ama-reducing diet is a drink known as lassi in Ayurveda; it is one part fresh, organic yoghurt mixed with four parts water and lightly sweetened with honey. Lassi is an ideal drink after a meal as it contains acidophilus which aids in digestion and replenishes the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach should also be eaten often.

Herbal Ayurvedic Health Remedies

There are many herbal supplements created for balancing emotions. Blissful Joy was designed as a great nutritional support supplement for balancing emotion. Blissful Joy is effective because it balances the three sub-doshas: Sadhaka Pitta, Prana Vata and Tarpaka Kapha. It also helps to clear out toxic ama and improve the metabolism. When the channels of the body are blocked, the cells are deprived of nutrients and energy and begin to work sub-optimally.

Other Ayurvedic Health Remedies

There are many lifestyle changes you can start today to start restoring balance in your emotions, including meditation, exercise, and clearing your environment of harmful toxins and stress. Drinking sufficient water throughout the day also helps to keep the metabolism and lymph fluids moving, and ama buildup is less likely to occur if you are properly hydrated. Transcendental Meditation is a mediation highly recommended in Ayurveda. It can be learned through the teachings of an experienced Yogi or a certified Ayurveda specialist.

Balancing emotions is just one part of your overall health, taking care of your body and spiritual sides are also of the utmost importance.