Depression and Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, and Healing with Yoga

Depression and Anxiety - Fitzabout

While depression and anxiety may sound very different, for the most part, but its conditions actually share many important signs.

The main symptom of depression is usually a lethargic, sad or hopeless mood, whereas anxiety mainly includes extreme feelings of worry, nervousness, and fear.

For example, anxiety often includes irritability – and some people with depression may feel more irritable than sad.

As humans, we share a wide range of emotional states, including attributes of sadness, sadness, and existential distress, commonly labeled as depression, and thus considered unhealthy, Even if they are normal reactions to life events.

The same life events can also create a state of deep restlessness and anxiety, which gives us the complicating state of dysthymic disorder.

Clinical diagnosis of depression considers the severity and persistence of specific symptoms includes:

  • Sadness
  • Extreme hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in sometimes pleasurable activities
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Difficulty sleeping, Eating, or Functioning

The technical definition of depression given in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) differentiates persistent depressive disorder, a depressed mood that lasts at least 2 years, perinatal depression (also known as postpartum sadness), psychotic depression (involving some form of psychosis), and from seasonal affective disorder (Winter depression is caused by less sunlight).[1]

Within each of these psychological categories is a wide range of situations and experiences.

The DSMV also distinguishes between episodic and habitual depression that can form a core part of one’s sense of self.

These conditions are often concomitant with anxiety, which can be a generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Although acute or chronic depression can be debilitating and lead to harmful behaviors, mild depression can be an effective coping strategy; a means of intense self-reflection that ultimately opens one up to a clearer and healthier sense of self, others, and one’s state of life; And a call for help.

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When acute or chronic, depression is, well, depressing: Other important ways of living one’s life give way to self-defeating and self-destructive behavior.

Social isolation, substance abuse and neglect of self-care are typical effects.

With anxiety – also a normal part of life because we feel anxious in anticipation of something – our fears and apprehensions can easily interfere with our normal lives, distracting from our work, relationships, and sense of fulfillment.

Generalized anxiety disorder manifests as:

  • Restlessness
  • Mental and physical fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Obsessive worry
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep problems

Panic disorder involves a sudden feeling of fear and feeling out of control, whereas social anxiety disorder involves a fear of social situations, especially when there is a sense of being judged.


Depression can be caused by a wide range of conditions, starting with the situations of one’s life during childhood, particularly abandonment, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

Several life events—some of which are fewer “events” than lifelong situations—can trigger a depressive response:

  • Illness
  • Major life changes
  • The experience of living in a sexist, racist, ageist, or otherwise discriminatory society
  • Financial difficulty
  • Violence
  • Loss
  • Social isolation
  • Difficult social relationships

Drug abuse—even the simple use of certain substances and certainly the use of a wide range of FDA-approved drugs—can cause or exacerbate mood disorders.

There are also physical factors that can cause chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to emotional depression.

These same variables often cause anxiety, especially in people who are typically shy, feel vulnerable, or are exposed to stressful life events.

Healing or Treatment

Most depression passes over time, especially when one is able to try to be proactive, share time with others and trust, and avoid known triggers.

When depression is persistent or other conditions such as acute anxiety or substance abuse are experienced, this may indicate the value of treatment.

The most common treatments for depression and anxiety are some form of psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, and antidepressant medication, sometimes in combination.

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In cases of severe chronic depression in which medications have not been effective, electroconvulsive therapy is often recommended.

Every form of therapy that appears to be variable and complementary offers something or the other to heal depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness-based meditation as a tool in cognitive therapy has gained significant traction as an effective method for reducing depression and anxiety in a wide spectrum of settings. Now, 35 years after the pioneering work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, we have anecdotal evidence of its efficacy.[2]

We find increasing evidence of the efficacy of other Buddhist-based meditation practices, including Vipassana, in relieving depression and anxiety.

Depression and Anxiety Healing with Yoga

Many ancient to modern yoga principles and practices focus on mental health, including the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, which sets out the basic purpose of yoga as chitta vrtti nirodha, “to calm the fluctuations of the mind.”

We find many expansions and refinements of this idea in the late 20th century and into the present, and more recent well-designed studies have found evidence of efficacy, each of which are specific yoga practices for the treatment of depression and anxiety.

The focus of yoga therapy to address depression and anxiety lies in opening up to self-acceptance while following the path of life-changing practices.

Embodiment practices of asana can help bring us into the present moment, reducing the tendency to focus on past life events or think about something that hasn’t happened yet.

Yoga asanas can be a tool to re-experience the body in a positive way, warding off negative emotions while providing a more peaceful and joyful body.

The basic idea here is that each moment in any asana is experienced as if we are opening many different windows on our tendencies in life, which let us know ourselves through the various thoughts and feelings that arise in response to the asana allows to see more clearly that instant moment.

When adding breathing exercises, starting with basic Ujjayi Breath, we can play with the ways in which the qualities of breathing influence the qualities of self-awareness.

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As we breathe, we feel a more pervasive awareness, a larger and lighter space with great potential for deep personal insight. As we exhale, we become calm, calm and calm inside, especially in the natural pause that occurs when the breath is empty.

Persistence in the simple meditative practice of breath-mantras allows us to gradually release our self-limiting and self-destructive patterns of mental and emotional response to life events, even when we still expose ourselves to many triggers otherwise causes anxious or depressive episodes.

Thus, it is in the blended practices of asana, pranayama and meditation that we come across the most on the healing effects of yoga for depression and anxiety.

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Article Sources +
  2. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1982 Apr;4(1):33-47. doi: 10.1016/0163-8343(82)90026-3. An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results. J Kabat-Zinn. Available here: Google Scholar.[]

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