Yoga and Pranayam, two traditional disciplines being practised in India since time immemorial to keep one’s body and mind healthy, have got backing from none other Harvard University, which counts these as some of the best natural methods to keep depression at bay.
According to Associate Consultant, Mental Health and Behavioural Science, Artemis Dr Askshay Kumar, ”Yoga, Pranayam, meditation and physical activities, besides relaxing the mind and the body, are great methods to beat depression.”
”Studies at Harvard University have documented that when we exercise, serotonin, a mood regulator is produced, this helps prevent depression, as the latter is associated with low levels of serotonin. Even medication works on increasing serotonin -yog and physical exercise is a natural method of producing serotonin in the body. A Harward study has quantified 15 minutes of exercise three times a week is enough to produce optimum levels of serotonin in the body” he explains.
”Besides serotonin, BDNF and Oxytocin levels are also regulated and cortisol hormone also decreases through these activities, so there is scientific basis why doctors recommend Yoga and Pranayam for those suffering with psychological ailments.”
Dr Akshay was speaking at a recently-organised webinar ‘Depression management and Treatment’, organised by ASSOCHAM.
President-Indian Psychiatric Society and Former Professor & Head Department of Psychiatry KGMU, Lucknow Prof. P K Dalal also spoke at the webinar,
he listed some physical symptoms that can be considered red flags, as far as depression is concerned.
”There are some physical symptoms called as somatic symptoms of depression. These include insomnia, typically early morning insomnia where in the person gets up two hours prior to usual time of waking up, weight loss is also not uncommon as the person experiences poor appetite.
”The person’s mood during morning hours is usually pretty bad as they get up and do not feel like doing anything”.
Prof PK Dalal said that contrary to popular belief depression is also seen among children and adolescents. ”Depression is also found among children and adolescents, at King George’s Medical University, Lucknow (where Dr Dalal served as the Head, Department of Psychiatry) we have even diagnosed a child as young as four years of age as clinically depressed”.
Depression symptoms among children are similar to adults but they have higher instances of weeping spells, crankiness, and irritability, he added.
”Other common symptoms include school refusal, food refusal, not playing with their friends etc. Among adolescents one common symptom is excessive use of technology.”
Dr Dalal cautioned how suicide is a very real threat for depression patients and advised that those with a history of suicide attempt and self harm need to be put under constant surveillance.
Statistics from India and around the globe show that among those diagnosed with lifelong depression 10-15 per cent people commit, and the data for those who attempt suicide or indulge in self harm is many times over.
Hence the doctor, while diagnosing someone with depression, must always enquire whether the person has a suicide attempt history or a history of self harm. “For those patients who have attempted suicide the family members need to be extra careful, these patients need 24 hour surveillance, the patient must never be left alone.
Medicines should be administered to these patients and not handed over to them as drug overdose is a major source of suicide attempt. Any object that may be used for a suicide attempt should not be kept in the room of the patient- like insecticide, blade knife etc.”
Emphasising that genetic factors are a big determinant of depression Dr Akshay said, “if any of the parents have had depression then there is a 10-25% chance of the progeny developing this condition, if both the parents have had a history of depression then the chances in the progeny developing depression goes up to the range of 20-50 per cent.”
Depression can be accompanied by several physical ailments “It can cause cardio vascular disorders and cardio vascular disorders in turn can also cause depression, thyroid can cause depression, anxiety over a period of time can cause depression and depression is common among cancer patients. 20-30 % more cases of depression have been seen among hypertension and diabetic patients. Depression is common among those suffering with chronic ailments.”
Dr Dalal pointed out that depression can accompany any psychiatric ailment including Schizophrenia, bi polar disorder and said that drug abuse is a big factor for depression.
He observed that there is a gender divide as far as depression is concerned “Instances of depression are twice as common among women as compared to males, this is due to their biology-menstrual and premenstrual cycles, pregnancy time depression, postpartum depression, menopausal depression etc.
”Having postpartum tiredness and low mood is normal, but if it lasts for more than two weeks then it may be depression,” Mr Dalal added.