Depression, A Holistic Consideration
There is no real way to tie down depression to one singular element. At one time or another most of us are going to find ourselves depressed about something. Sometimes it is an associative response to our environment. I know that when I see an area that is economically and physically depressed, I get a depression that almost seems palpable. That harkens back to certain associations from my childhood. Our emotional state of being is not separated from our physical sense of wellness. If we are tired or low in energy, we may also be low in spirit.
The Person You Are
In Chinese medicine, we find that people have a proclivity to certain behavioral tendencies represent a picture of their mind-body selves. For instance, a person may have SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter. In this case, it is quite likely that they have some kind of energy deficiency as well. A person who is lost in the past, grieving over the change, may also have a condition of the lung energy. If a person takes too much on to care about, then this person would be a Stomach or Spleen type. An angry person with a compulsion to get a lot of things done may be suffering from conditions controlled by the Liver. The Heart has a lot to do with all our joys and sorrows in general.
Of course, few people are strictly one type or another. The explanations are not ever as cut and dried as in the preceding paragraph tries to make it. But the main point is that emotional tendencies are echoed in your physical being. I have written extensively about pains in the body and their relationship to the affliction of organ systems. It is important to also know that emotions of anger, fear, worry, grief etc. are not divorced from our physical being as well.
What Is Depression?
For all of us, depression is a nebulous concept with even a thousand adjectives it would not quite fit the bill for anyone. While the term depression, being a low emotional state in medical terms, is just thought to be understood. In truth, a plethora of types of depression exists. Bipolar or Manic Depression would be a type of depression that is down, and then suddenly completely up and possibly violent. Being in some state of funk when life is going badly is fairly normal for any one of us.
What most people think of commonly with depression, is this fairly persistent down state regardless of the rest of your life possibly being pretty good. When little children moan and cry and throw fits we look immediately at factors such as diet, “Have they eaten?” or “That chocolate he ate at lunch did this!” Plus, we always assume that they are tired or need a nap. When we get older, these physiological factors get more complex, but the resultant emotional changes can be similar.
One of the most common types of depression involves the Liver and Kidneys. In the circulation of energy, the Liver gets its energy from the Kidneys. While I mentioned before that the kidneys can become taxed in the winter, the Liver can be taxed by the spring. In fact, any season can precipitate tough emotional changes. Just factors like poor diet or overwork can contribute to these deficiencies as well.
The sufficiency of both of these energies has a lot to do with our will. When these energies are strong we can assume authority for lots of difficult tasks, and get them done. When they are deficient, for whatever purpose, emotional or physical, we can lose that will. If we are by nature a Liverish type, then this will becomes unrequited and we become disparaged or depressed.
I have seen many such depressions begin with a post-partum mother. When she has not recovered from the ardor of difficult childbirth, she may not be able to meet her own high expectations. These may be just her roles in the family, home or workplace. In any case, this is the person that is suddenly rendered incapable of doing what they expect of themselves. Their mind tells them they are falling short and can be made miserable by the vision of a former self now lost.
Spleen And Stomach Types
A Spleen or Stomach type will typically take on a lot. They think about everything and everyone and a lot of this is involved with worry. Things may start to surmount them. it is common that their list gets too long and their vector of concern grows too large. They become defeated and overwhelmed. In this regard, they are physically sick. Part of their downhill slide involves the physical debasement of the digestive system in the interim. Many of these types of people can also fall into anxiety or panic attacks. Once a thought gets going it becomes hard to stop and overwhelms them as it clouds their minds and perceptions.
Kidney deficient types get low and depressed in the winter as a matter of course. The winter taxes the kidney energy generally. Moreover, the mark of a kidney deficient person is that they are subject to fears. They can be shocked easily, and in a low-grade constant sort of way, fears can overwhelm them. This makes them closed in and fearful of a world that is always asking them to try new things. When energies are small, the world is big and everything new may seem like too much. This person can be often caught irrationally using the word 'can’t.' This can be frustrating to others around them who try to get them to do something challenging or unfamiliar. This leads to a closed-in sense of retreat from life that can be depressing and make a person feel trapped.
The Lung type is regretful and somewhat grieved by loss. They are always depressed by the loss of how things “used to be.” The death of someone close to them can throw them into such a feeling of grief that they almost can’t breathe. In fact, they often can wane away and die this way when a close partner has passed away. This unsuitability of the world of the present or the future can make the person feel unfit for the world they have to cope with.
Western medicine is also coming around to the meeting of mind and body and in fact using the term mind-body more and more. One of the things they are studying most is the effect on the heart. Most of the study has been on the effect of heart attacks and the type A persona. These people suffer from a rather constant time-compressed stress. Generally, they are finding high level. of glucocorticoids in the bloodstream that stimulates cortisol production and lead to a proclivity for hypertension and heart attacks.
The fact is that they find high glucocorticoid levels in depressives as well. In both of these cases, it is more the way one responds to stressors that are related to being the cause. The real point of these studies is that there is a direct physiological link to emotional turmoil. At last, western science finds measurable and therefore a scientific and more direct link. The state of the mind and emotions are directly connected to the health or lack of it in the physical self.
To each individual type of person, the type of stressor one responds to relies on the type of person you are. Whether you are healthy or not. If the person is balanced and healthy, the possibility that you’re are going to fall into a depression is less likely than if you are not. Mostly, this is regardless of the outward stimulus that may normally bring it on. The aura of depression often falls on those whose proclivity toward imbalance is a physical presence that exacerbates the emotional self.
How I See It
At our clinic, analyzing this balance and addressing both the emotional and physical parts is absolutely essential. We have to see the emotional and the physical as one and seeing the bigger picture is what we are most noted for.
Even as I read this article myself, it feels far too clinical and removed to reflect sympathy and understanding I try to reflect. One of the biggest mistakes any practitioner can make is oversimplifying this very complex station in a person’s life and try to just explain it away or just cheer them up.
One of the most difficult problems can be that the depressive patient must see the depression as their problem and not everyone else’s. They must make certain that it is their own initiative to create a new life. Not just something they 'owe’ to concerned people around them. Many people ask me to help with someone else’s depression for which I am helpless to do. Without the absolute full volition of the person who is depressed, nothing can be done. The problem is both physical and emotional. It is a journey that is hard, painful, and requires a lot of patience and willingness for change and new levels of self-discovery.