WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression can be thought of as a morbid sadness. Depression is characterized by dejection, lack of hope, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, and diminished ability to think or concentrate. When severely depressed, individuals may also have recurrent thoughts of death (especially suicide).
Depression is very common. In fact, it has been referred to as the "common cold of mental illness." Yet, depression is not a new illness. It has long been recognized as a common emotional disorder.
For many centuries depression was referred to as "melancholia."The term melancholia is derived from the Greeks who believed that depression resulted from an imbalance in the body's chemistry. Melancholia was thought to be caused by an excess of black bile. Bile is a chemical secreted by the liver and gall duct.
Just as in Edgar Cayce's era, the term melancholia is still used to designate depression. Not surprisingly, many of Cayce's readings use the two terms interchangeably. As a medical term, melancholia is still used in modern psychiatric diagnosis. However, it now refers to a subtype of depression. In recognition of its Greek origins, melancholia now refers to depression with strong biological features, such as disturbed sleep and appetite, decreased interest or pleasure in all or almost all daily activities, and psychomotor disturbances (such as too much or too little bodily movement or activity).Melancholic depression is thought to respond better to biological treatments (such as drug therapy).Interestingly, Edgar Cayce spoke at length about the physical aspects of depression when he used the term melancholia.
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Research suggests that there are probably many causes of depression. However, in recent years, great emphasis has been placed on the biology of depression. Scientists have explored the relationship between faulty chemistry in the nervous system and depressive symptoms. Specifically, research has focused on the chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) which nerve cells use to communicate with each other.
If there is a problem with certain neurotransmitters in the brain, communication between nerve cells may be inhibited. When this chemical dysfunction occurs in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and cognition, depression may result. In simple terms, when nerve cell communication is inhibited, the nervous system itself may be said to be depressed in its activity. This inhibition my lead to a general depression of mind and body. Presumably, the antidepressant drugs prescribed by medical doctors can therapeutically alter the chemical messengers used by nerve cells, resulting in better communication within the brain. This biochemical explanation of the cause and treatment of depression is sometimes referred to as the "medical model of depression."
EDGAR CAYCE'S PERSPECTIVE ON DEPRESSION
Edgar Cayce was decades ahead of modern medical research when he gave graphic descriptions of nervous system pathology in cases of depression. When he spoke of such nervous system pathology in cases of depression, he would sometimes use the expression "lapse of nerve impulse" to portray the breakdown in nerve cell communication.
The readings give many reasons for this characteristic "lapse in nerve impulse."In numerous cases, glandular dysfunction was cited as the source of the problem. Edgar Cayce's explanation was that the nervous system is dependent upon the glands of the body to provide the chemicals essential for normal nerve cell functioning. When the glands fail to provide these essential chemicals, various physical, mental and emotional symptoms (including depression) can result. Endocrine gland pathology (most often the adrenal, thyroid and pineal glands) was noted in several cases of depression. Significantly, modern medical research has also acknowledged the involvement of these important endocrine glands in depression.
Toxicity is another common biological cause of depression cited by Edgar Cayce. In some readings, he spoke of a "deadening" effect to the nervous system produced by the absorption of toxins into the nerve fiber. Apparently, this deadening effect could have a depressive effect upon the nervous system leading to the characteristic "lapse in nerve impulse."
Naturally, treatment recommendations in such cases focused heavily on therapies intended to cleanse the body. Improved diet, with regular massage and hydrotherapy, were common prescriptions in such cases.
While Edgar Cayce's perspective has many similarities to the modern medical (biochemical) model of depression, there are important differences. Instead of relying heavily on medication to alter the chemical balance in the nervous system, he would usually recommend more natural methods. These "holistic" therapies would help the body to be its own "medicine chest" and thus bring its faulty biochemistry back into a healthy state."Holistic" refers to Cayce's tendency to consider the whole person (body, mind and spirit) when diagnosing illness and making treatment recommendations. Hence, Edgar Cayce is widely regarded as the "father of modern holistic medicine."
Another difference between Cayce's perspective and the medical model is the role of mental and spiritual factors which may lead to depression of the nervous system. For example, he would often note psychospiritual causes, such as unhealthy attitudes, or a lack of spiritual direction in a person's life, as a precedent of nervous system pathology.
The readings contain many examples of mentally (i.e., psychosomatically) induced depression."Mind is the builder" is a prominent theme in the readings and is based upon the inherent association of mental processes with the nervous system. Self-condemnation was a particularly destructive mental pattern frequently noted in cases of depression. Failure to live up to an ideal (or even have an ideal) was sometimes cited as a primary source of mental depression.
TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DEPRESSION
Although Edgar Cayce's treatment recommendations varied from person to person based on the unique needs of each individual, the therapies which follow represent some of the common suggestions for treating and preventing depression.
- INTERNAL CLEANSING: Improving eliminations is a high priority because the readings cite toxemia as a common causal factor associated with depression. Hydrotherapy (fume baths and colonic irrigation), manual therapy (osteopathy and chiropractic), massage, and diet are the main therapies for improving eliminations.
- MANUAL THERAPY: Manual therapy (spinal manipulation and massage) assist in establishing better coordination between the central and peripheral nervous systems. This is important because the readings consistently portray the pathophysiology of depression as a "lapse in nerve impulse."
- RADIAL APPLIANCE: The Radial Appliance may prove helpful in cases where restlessness, fatigue or insomnia are significant symptoms. This simple device resembles an electrical battery. However, it does not produce any measurable electrical energy. The readings insist that it utilizes the body's own vibratory energies to help equalize the circulatory and nerve systems.
- OUTDOOR EXERCISE: The readings also consistently stress the importance of moderate outdoor exercise in the open (i.e., sunlight) for relaxation, improving eliminations, and in certain cases, as a form of phototherapy. Phototherapy is the use of light to treat illness. Phototherapy has been used for centuries as a natural means of treating depression.
- IDEALS EXERCISE: The ideals exercise is an important intervention for establishing priorities, not only within the therapeutic regimen, but also for long-term health maintenance. This intervention is also an excellent means of recognizing and correcting dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs.
- SERVICE TO OTHERS: The spiritual phase of the basic model encourages persons to take a broader perspective on their immediate situation. Altruistic service provides a sense of interpersonal connectedness which can be extremely therapeutic in the treatment of depression. Cayce often recommended that depressed persons find someone who is in a worse condition and help them. He emphasized that the best way of helping self is to help others.
- BIBLIOTHERAPY: The readings also consistently recommend that persons suffering from depression read and study inspirational material. Clinically known as bibliotherapy, this therapeutic technique is now used by many psychotherapists for the treatment of many forms of mental illness, including depression. Consistent with his Christian religious orientation, Edgar Cayce showed a preference for the Bible as a source of inspiration. Certain passages were repeatedly recommended for persons suffering from depression (most often the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th chapters of John).