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Ayurvedic view of depression
From Deepika Padukone to Robin Williams to the friend or family member you have seen struggle with depression, it will affect every person differently. Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old ancient healing system from India, teaches us that depression comes in three types. It all depends on your dosha. Ayurveda teaches us that there are three of them: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and also recommends that each type of depression should be addressed differently.
It’s believed that dysregulation of vāta or kapha is the initial cause of depression. However, over its course, we may see anyone or more of the doshas crest in significance Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, and, if left unmanaged, it can increase the risk of suicide.
How Ayurveda Explains Depression
Ayurveda recognizes that many physiological and environmental factors can contribute to depression, including inadequate diet, weak digestive fire (agni), a frenzied lifestyle, and numerous environmental factors. Excessive mental and physical stress can also trigger symptoms of depression. All these contributors can result in an accumulation of impurities and imbalances that interfere with the body’s natural biological rhythms. When toxins, ama, amass in tissues, they disrupt the body’s delicate biochemistry.
“There is a chemical reaction in the brain, and it causes electrochemical imbalance. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, this can be considered an imbalance in vata dosha. This activates metabolism and there is variation in enzyme release or pitta vitiation. When there is an imbalanced variation, the body tries to shut down to protect itself and this can be the action of kapha dosha and thus there is darkness, heaviness, or depression,” writes Dr. Ashwini Konnur.
What causes depression
Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, there are many causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, and stressful life events. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression. Possible causes of depression include a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors that may cause anguish. Increasingly, research suggests these factors may cause changes in brain function, including the altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.
The three types of depression in Ayurveda
Vāta type depression
This is equivalent to the diagnosis of Minor Depressive Disorder (MDD) in modern Western medicine. Vata dosha is made up of air and ether elements. And this dosha’s qualities are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile. Vata out of balance can show up as sleeplessness, weight loss, nervousness, and anxiety in individuals. Loss, which increases the elements of air and ether often triggers this depression. It could be the loss of a partner, a career opportunity, a friendship, a pet, a job, or a family member, which creates an emptiness in one’s life and gives rise to vata type depression. Symptoms such as emaciated look and vata-type insomnia are particularly dominant.
Pitta type depression
Pitta dosha comprises fire and water elements. Its main qualities are oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading, and liquid. Pittas in balance are sharp, astute, world leaders, and orators. Individuals with disturbed Pitta Dosha can be intense, critical, judgmental, easily agitated, jealous, and be sharp tongued. Pittas care about performances, and they need to be the best. Is it surprising that pitta-type depression is often associated with perceived failure perception or feeling burned out? This is a state of mind that arises when one does not live up to one’s own expectations of performance or achievement or capacity with careers or academics. Research will tell you that losing a job, failing a class, and not excelling in an exam can all be triggers for pitta type depression. This condition is comparable to the diagnosis of Minor Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia, in modern Western medicine.
Kapha type depression
Kapha Dosha is made up of water and earth elements. The qualities of this dosha are cold, heavy, slow, liquid, oily, smooth, dense, soft, static, cloudy, and gross. The kapha individual, in balance, is often grounded, supportive, compassionate, calm, patient and slow to move. Kapha out of balance—characterized by an increase in the elements of water and earth—has a tendency towards attachment, clinginess, possessiveness, and hoarding. Sluggishness, hypersomnia, overeating, desire for solitude, and withdrawal from social connectedness are kaphic manifestations of depression. This condition is analogous to the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or Clinical Depression, in modern Western medicine.
The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Ayurveda isn’t a replacement for your prescribed medications or advice from western medicine practitioners. But this holistic healing works as a reliable, complementary tool. Want to learn about the Ayurvedic diet, lifestyle, and herbal recommendations to navigate each type of depression? Get in touch today!
“Ayurveda is not just about nutrition or herbology, it has a unique tool for diagnosis, diagnosis of understanding the human constitution is different from person to person. Each one has a unique metabolic system.” ~ Maya Tiwari.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.