Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide, affecting approximately 300 million people (4.4 percent of the world’s population) and 17.3 million US adults (approximately 1 in 12). Women are nearly twice as likely as men (8.7 percent vs. 5.3 percent) to suffer from depression, with adolescence, postpartum, and perimenopause being especially risky times. Depression has a significant economic impact. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is also one of the most common reasons people seek out integrative or complementary therapies and providers.
Healing depression is something that requires time, focus, and effort on multiple levels. Here are five key psychological steps that can provide a useful foundation for the endeavor.
Viewed through an Ayurvedic lens, depression is usually thought of as a Kapha imbalance—heaviness, sadness, and general stagnation. Apathy, low energy, poor mood, and reduced movement are part of the official criteria psychiatrists use to diagnose depression. These symptoms are all Kapha problems, which suggests that the Kapha element is indeed out of balance in most cases of clinical depression.
From a more comprehensive Ayurvedic standpoint, there are three subtly different types of depression corresponding to the three doshas. These unique types of depression may preferentially affect people of that same primary dosha. They can also affect people of a different primary dosha who have the affected dosha(s) out of balance.
Associated with lethargy, increased sleep, poor motivation, despondency, and ama (toxicity), lies Kapha depression. It is the most common and longest-lasting type–due to the inherently slow-moving nature of Kapha. The treatment approach varies but includes the general principles of increasing movement, reducing toxicity, and enhancing ojas (vitality). Some science-backed recommendations are:
Like Pitta imbalance, Pitta depression is a more agitated state. It is highlighted by frustration, anger, irritability, and impulsivity. There is a higher risk of suicide with this type of depression due to the impulsivity and agitation. In traditional psychiatry, this might be thought of as a “mixed depression” (depression blended with manic or bipolar symptoms) or an “agitated depression.” This condition may be more common in a person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or has some tendencies along the bipolar spectrum.
Pitta depression can be improved by general principles of cooling and soothing. Research-based remedies include the following:
Characterized by worry, restlessness, insomnia, and “ungroundedness,” a person with Vata depression often will have an overload of the stress hormone cortisol. They generally have pushed themselves (or felt pushed) beyond their capabilities and become overwhelmed. This is a bit like the classic “nervous breakdown,” which is not an official medical diagnosis. In psychiatry, Vata depression is usually thought of as a combined anxiety-depressive disorder. There is a strong ruminative component to this state—an inability to shut off the mind.
Key principles for healing Vata depression are grounding, warming, and calming. A few specific recommendations for Vata-type depression are:
Depression is an opportunity—a chance to face your darkest thoughts and feelings with understanding and openness. It is a chance to nurture and heal yourself. Spiritually, transforming depression involves facing one’s own depths and coming to terms with choices, disappointments, fears, traumas, and more. Each case of depression is unique, but the common answer to all of them is your own love. If you are willing to open your heart to your own pain and make compassionate space for it, you are on your way to healing.
If you suffer from depression, take the wildest self-affirming action possible and fully commit to being here—on the planet and in your body. Wishing to leave is distracting and essentially delays healing. Have compassion for your soul for choosing a challenging life. Honor your soul’s wisdom by vowing to walk your unique path, even if it’s hard—even with depression.
Depression is your teacher. Trying to understand it will teach you about yourself and the world. Cultivating happiness is a practice. Every day requires maintenance. Try not to doubt your journey. Integrate your prior choices and values into your current sense of self. This will help you feel cohesive and strong. Feeling empowered now makes it easier to create a future that includes a heart at peace. The road is inward and may be long, but a heart at peace in a balanced body will surely find its way.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
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This content was originally published here.