Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
A depressed mood is a normal temporary reaction to life events such as loss of a loved one. It is also a symptom of some physical diseases and a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments. Depressed mood is also a symptom of some mood disorders such as the major depressive disorder or dysthymia
A person having a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood, which pervades all aspects of life, and an inability to experience pleasure in activities that were formerly enjoyed. Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred. In severe cases, depressed people may have symptoms of psychosis. These symptoms include delusions or, less commonly, hallucinations, usually unpleasant. Other symptoms of depression include poor concentration and memory (especially in those with melancholic or psychotic features), withdrawal from social situations and activities, reduced sex drive, irritability, and thoughts of death or suicide. Insomnia is common among the depressed. In the typical pattern, a person wakes very early and cannot get back to sleep. Hypersomnia, or oversleeping, can also happen. Some antidepressants may also cause insomnia due to their stimulating effect
The cause of major depressive disorder is unknown. The biopsychosocial model proposes that biological, psychological, and social factors all play a role in causing depression. The diathesis–stress model specifies that depression results when a preexisting vulnerability, or diathesis, is activated by stressful life events. The preexisting vulnerability can be either genetic, implying an interaction between nature and nurture, or schematic, resulting from views of the world learned in childhood.
Childhood abuse, either physical, sexual or psychological, are all risk factors for depression, among other psychiatric issues that co-occur such as anxiety and drug abuse. Childhood trauma also correlates with severity of depression, lack of response to treatment and length of illness. However, some are more susceptible to developing mental illness such as depression after trauma, and various genes have been suggested to control susceptibility.
Life events: These include bereavement, divorce, work issues, relationships with friends and family, financial problems, medical concerns, or acute stress.
Transcendental Meditation is the cornerstone treatment of Maharishi AyurVeda. During the practice of T.M., the mind effortlessly settles into the state of pure silence or pure consciousness. Because of the intimate connection between mind and body, when the mind transcends the field of activity, the body becomes very relaxed. Modern research demonstrates that during this deep level of rest the metabolic rate drops to levels much deeper than is typically seen during sleep. It is this profound level of rest to both the mind and body that enables deep-rooted stress and fatigue to be released, in a most effortless and spontaneous manner.
Historically Ayurveda has considered an unhealthy diet to be a potential cause of the mental imbalance. This is because when our food is not properly and efficiently digested, unwanted metabolic by-products of digestion (called “ama” in Ayurveda) get produced. There are primarily 3 kinds of ama, vata ama, pitta ama, and kapha ama. Vata ama causes nervousness and anxiety, pitta ama causes irritability, and kapha ama causes low ambition and depression. Both one’s psychophysiological type (vata, pitta, or kapha), and the type of food one is eating, determine which type of ama gets produced. A consultation with a trained Maharishi AyurVeda practitioner can help you design an “ama free” diet best suited to your particular constitution. Other factors that produce ama include how fast you eat, how well you chew your food, and the quantity consumed.
Exercise, according to Ayurveda, is considered vital to mental health. Modern medical research has begun to substantiate this ancient prescription. Exercise increases serotonin and endorphins, neurotransmitters that are well known to improve mood. In addition, exercise reduces chemicals in the bloodstream that cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. Inflammation is being discovered to be one of the potential causes of a variety of mental illnesses. However, the degree of exercise that is recommended is dependent upon one’s psychophysiological type. Too little or too much exercise can be harmful, so it’s useful to know whether you are a vata, pitta, or kapha type. Vata types feel their best emotionally with mild to moderate exercise, such as walking or light jogging. If Vata types over-exercise, it can increase anxiety. Pitta types feel best with a moderate amount of exercise. Swimming is ideal for pittas because it tends to keep them from overheating, which in turn can increase irritability. Kapha types feel happiest when they get a greater degree of aerobic exercise. Otherwise, they can feel phlegmatic and depressed.
Some of the world’s most renowned quantum field theorists in physics have postulated that our thoughts and emotions are wave functions, similar to the wave functions of light and fine particles such as quarks and leptons. Waves are a vibratory phenomenon. The Maharishi AyurVeda herbal preparations work on many levels of the physiology, such as the biochemical level. But they are also described as working at the quantum level, which includes the level of our thoughts and emotions. Each plant is known to have a specific frequency, or wave pattern, which, when ingested, resonates with specific parts of the body that have a similar wave frequency. Hence, the Maharishi AyurVeda herbs work at a very deep and subtle level. Many studies have shown that certain Ayurvedic herbal preparations can be helpful to improve mood and cognition. Maharishi AyurVeda products such as Mind Plus, Study Power, and Stress Free Mind and Emotions are a few examples of herbal combinations that can help to promote balance in mental and emotional functioning.
Also called “Panchakarma” in Ayurveda, these procedures have been shown to be very beneficial to mental and emotional functioning. Some of the treatments used in Panchakarma are oil massage (Abhyanga), Shirodhara (oil poured over the forehead), and basti (herbalized enemas). The combination of these and other purification therapies work to systematically remove toxins from the cellular level of the body. The result of these detoxification procedures is improved mood and mental clarity, amongst many other benefits. Ayurveda recommends doing body purification for 3-5 days once or twice per year. The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa, along with many other Maharishi AyurVeda Clinics in the U.S. and around the world offer these treatments.