Depression is not just being deeply sad or blue, but it is a group of signs where the person feels sinking, sad, hopeless and alone constantly for a couple of weeks or more, where he or she fails to address the positivity, irrespective of positive or negative life situations; feeling of emptiness, incapable to enjoy the things which the person would normally would like to do, example-work, hobby or company of friends which in turn affects productivity, sleep, appetite or even be the cause for serious physical ailments, mental disorders and abnormal behavioural patterns over a long period of time more than a couple of weeks. The social stigma and the cultural taboos regarding the mental disorders makes it worse for the person under depression to communicate to the people around or to get needed medical assistance. Even the great personality like Arjuna was not spared from Vishada/depression is described in the 1st chapter of Mahabharata as Arjuna Vishada Yoga. Depression affects 350 million global populations of which the women outnumber men and 1 million deaths per year are due to the same. It is said to be a “common cold of mental health” which can affect any person in any age group irrespective of socioeconomic status & race.
Ayurveda explains depression or Vishada as an associated symptom of many physical ailments as well as a separate psychiatric ailment. In Ayurveda the commentators like Chakrapanidatta, Dalhana has elaborated the term “Vishada” (fear and weakness) as that which weakens the body and mind and is the aggravating factor for most of the diseases. Ayurveda considers the mind and body as the two faces of the same coin where a physical ailment can generate a mental illness. Eg.Diseases like epilepsy, leprosy, psoriasis etc can cause depression to the person owing to the social stigma towards such diseases. And similarly a mental condition can in turn pave way to a physical aliment the best example most of us have experienced is diarrhoea before the exams or headaches due to stress and excess thinking. So Ayurveda is concerned not only about the body but also the mind and the soul. Even WHO have included the mental and spiritual health in the health definition apart from socio-economic and physical health.
Causes of depression
• The neurochemical imbalances like secretion and synthesis of nor epinephrine and serotonin which in turn affects circadian rhythm
• Hereditary factors
• Seasonal changes especially winter season or cold countries with less sun light
• Physiological factors – pregnancy, postpartum and menopause
• Drug induced
• Excess exposure to electromagnetic waves (Television, computer, mobile phones)
• Loss of a loved one, Mate cheating, etc
The symptoms of depression arise with when each dosha’s are associated with Tamas / the mass inertia of mind.
• Vatadosha associated with tamasic nature will have excessive worries, feeling of hopelessness, pessimism, feeling of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, anxieties, fears, phobias, terrors, delusions, compulsions, irrelevant talk, monologue or dialogue with self, attention deficit, bi-polar disease, auditory hallucinations, irritability, restlessness, difficulty to concentrate and remember details, difficulty in decision making, insomnia, early morning wakefulness, loss of appetite, aches and pains.
• Pitta dosha associated with tamas will give rise to thoughts of suicide & even suicide attempts, murder and visual hallucinations, headaches and digestive problems that do not ease even with treatments. It also causes comparison, dominance, criticism, jealousy, frustration, obsession, territorial , anger, rage, and violence.
• Kaphadosha associated with tamas will produce sadness&feeling of emptiness, melancholia, prolonged crying, stubbornness, dark depression, hiding, hoarding, catatonia, overeating and kinesthetic hallucinations, fatigue and decreased energy, loss of interest in activities or hobbies that was once pleasurable, including sex, excessive sleep, drowsiness even after proper sleep, over eating and indigestion.
Ayurveda has the safest treatment for depression which is neither habit forming nor with side effects. There are 3 approaches for the treatment in Ayurveda –
• Daivavyapasraya- Daiva means divine or the deeds of past life, Vyapasraya means seat or support. It includes mantras & prayers, use of gems, rituals, oblations, offerings, sacrifices like fasting, prostration, pilgrimages etc. These methods create confidence and remove the fears and pessimistic tendencies in person.
• Yuktivyapasraya – Yukti means logical thinking or rational knowledge. These include the internal medicines as well as external therapies. Certain classical herbs like Jyotishmati, Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Shankhapushpi tablets like Saraswatvati, Mansyadighanvati, preparations like Brahma Rasayana are good for the depression. Shirodhara, Marma Abhyangam, Ksheeradhara, Takradhara and even Shodhana Chikitsa or the Panchakarma detoxification therapies are good for depression.
• Sattvaavajaya – This involves counselling part, which is inevitable as rational treatment. The person under depression doesn’t need sympathy nor does he or she want other person to interfere in their life decision but need to be treated empathically with proper counseling and apt medication.
The branch of Ayurveda that deals with the mental disorders including depression is called Bhutavidya or Ayurvedic psychiatry. The Bhuta initially was interpreted as the entities of superstitious origin. But by 20th century in an attempt to avoid more epistemological and discursive aspect of Bhuta or vernacular idioms of distress, was reinterpreted as more secular and scientific idiom as bacteria, virus and microbes or even vectors which cause genetic changes which confirmed the mind body correlation of Ayurveda and also the hereditary aspect of diseases affecting the mind. Thus the treatment for depression is explained elaborately in ancient Ayurveda texts under Ayurvedic psychiatry (Bhutavidya).
The treatment for depression in the conventional medication and psychiatry has several problems including strong side effects that affect other areas of life. Moreover, the occurrence of depression cannot be prevented by these means; it just gives temporary relief as and when it occurs. On the other hand, Ayurveda provides a natural and effective way of treatment of depression, improves mental clarity and cognitive functions, also preventing re occurrences to a large extent.
This article is written by Vaidya Parvathy Rajeev, Consultant Physician & Head of Research Division at Chakrapani Ayurveda