Depression Medicine

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What causes “depression” according to Traditional Chinese Medicine?

In the case of what may be termed ‘depression’ in modern society, the causes are often (but not always) attributed  to  emotional strain and the result of stagnated Qi flow (1).

Traditional Chinese Medicine recognises emotional problems as medical problems within a holistic view

Traditional Chinese Medicine recognises emotional problems as medical problems within a holistic view

How would a TCM practitioner address low moods?
TCM practitioners observe a complex matrix of signs and symptoms to formulate tailored treatments for their patients. It’s impossible to describe the TCM traditional approach towards what in modern day life is termed ‘depression’  in a few sentences. Broadly within the TCM tradition, low moods and feeling anxious reflect Qi which needs to be encouraged to flow in a smoother, more ordered fashion. TCM  diagnosis is decided according to the emotional manifestation of disordered Qi, but also many other physical signs or symptoms.  This produces more than one differing diagnoses for mood disorders which would come under the  umbrella of one diagnosis  of ‘depression’ within conventional modern medicine. Meaning that two patients with identical syndromes on their  medical certificates of “depression and anxiety” from their GP could actually each have a different TCM syndrome diagnosed.

Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis is radically different to modern conventional medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis is radically different to modern conventional medicine

How would the diagnosis be different?
Since TCM categorises illnesses by common collections of symptoms, bodily and/or emotional signs into what are termed TCM syndromes, over the centuries, common syndromes have been identiifed. Some include symptoms a modern medical doctor might well associate with the modern conventional medicine diagnosis of “depression”. However, its is important to remember TCM concepts of anatomy differ greatly from those in modern medicine. This point is emphasised as the different traditions do not always equate to each other – for example, a “heart problem” in modern medicine would mean abnormal functioning or anatomy of the physical, fleshy heart, but not necessarily so at all in TCM.  Another important poitn to remember is the diagnosis in TCM is not fixed for all time. The body is seen as a dynamic interchange of Qi processes, transformations and flow so it follows naturally that over time, the diagnosis can be changed to reflect changing conditions within the body.

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References
1. Peng Bo. (2007). Traditional Chinese Internal Medicine. (2nd ed.). Beijing: People’s Medical Publishing House, p. 372-378.

DISCLAIMER: No information here is intended to be taken as medical advice – or used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Any person with any health concerns is advised instead to consult their doctor. In the case of persons seeking therapy using Traditional Chinese Medicine, this information cannot be taken as medical advice and persons are advised instead to consult a suitably qualified practitioner.

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