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TCM vs. western treatment of mental illness

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  • TCM vs. western treatment of mental illness

    Looking back at my experience with western treatment of my mental illness (labeled attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety), it seems it only served to patch up the problem for a short while and in the end make things a lot worse.

    I never went through any counseling which I think is one big part of how the western world deals with mental "problems". Instead, they just gave me a pill. Which seems to be a very popular option now a days, with any medical doctor having the power to deal these drugs out without any knowledge of how the mental illnesses they're treating work...or even how they impact a patients life (so you'd at least be able to accurately measure if it's helping them or not).

    Those pills do seem to work at getting rid of the problem. But they really just cover it up I think. And that's kind of what I'd like to talk about here. From the Chinese medical perspective, doesn't taking drugs like this only drain a patients body or mind of it's already low energy supply? From my own experience even though everything felt great while I was on the drug, once I quit taking it my problems became quite a bit worse than beforehand.

    Is taking these drugs really hurting the people rather then helping them? And if so, what is the true scope of the damage these drugs can do to someone who's body and mind are already weak?

    For as popular as drugs like these are becoming, this seems like an important topic to look at...for the future health of a lot of people.

    Just to be clear, I guess I'm mainly talking about drugs that manipulate the brains control chemicals. Like anitdepressants and stimulant medications.

    I'm floating down a river
    Oars freed from their holes long ago
    Lying face up on the floor of my vessel
    I marvel at the stars
    And feel my heart overflow

  • #2
    Dear Ryan,

    Interesting questions. I too think that pills are bad news. You only need to look at the side effects of anti depression pills to know that it damages your health, and doesn't solve anything permanently. Anti depression pills will only be prescribed more, at least here in Holland. More and more people are expected here for some reason to become depressed in the future (it's depressing.)

    I just heard on the radio that the prescription of anti depression pills are good for the economy. many people who would stay home otherwise, feel up to it to work after taking anti depression pills.

    That's the other side of the coin; people do benefit from those pills. For many, it may be the lesser of two evils to take pills..though I wouldn't dream fo taking them!

    It would be really interesting if someone could comment on it from TCM perspective.



    • #3
      Higher authorities, over to you........

      Hi everybody!

      Yes, even I would like to know much about it. Thank you for starting the thread, Ryan!

      As of now, all of the western medicine (as a field) has so deeply ingrained into people's mind that they refuse to listen to any other explanation of health. Even insurance companies "measuring" health from the western perspective has forced people to take it as a way of life(it not being the only reason).

      Suppose if a person feels sick and goes to the doctor and the doctor says,"Nothing's wrong. Take this pill twice a day and you'll feel better", the patient takes it for granted that he is safe enough, whereas the problem might be quite serious. He therefore, ignores to listen to the subtle messages that the body might convey.

      There is an urgent need to spread awareness about the TCM's view of health. To do so, we must ourselves be quite well-versed in the field. We can make a beginning by understanding the basic differences between the two perspectives of health.

      This can best be done by higher authorities who are in the field for quite some time. So we request higher authorities in this matter to kindly give us some info on this stuff. Over to the masters! .........
      Our life is such a miniscule speck of dust from the viewpoint of eternity.


      • #4
        Strictly speaking I cannot answer this from a professional TCM point of view as my field of profession is in Holistic therapy. The two are obviously entwined as much of HT comes from TCM.

        I see many clients in my clinic for various forms of depression, stress or behavioural problems. Many of these first visited their Doctors, who most probably were doing what they thought right and prescribed some form of antidepressant pills. As you say at first the pills give the impression that things are better. Closer to the truth is our body systems have been suppressed. Aesthetically made pills do not contain intelligent energy, when they enter our body's they blanket sweep all the communication channells of recepter cells and there for it is no wonder we start to feel a little different. Problem is they also stop the body communicating for other needs aswell. Of course from a Western perspective the illness is as a result of our body no longer producing the correct hormones and chemicals. Allegedly the tablets help this, however I personally believe they also supress our spirit as it is this that seems to be effected on some level after taking the pills.

        I do not personally like the theory that Western Doctors prescribe about pills and illnesses and that the pills are the lesser of two evils. They openly admit the pill is evil yet they prescribe it. This I believe is because of many factors.

        1) Western medicine is an incomplete system, yet it is the best they know, or are willingly to know, so they carry on regardless with blind faith.

        2) Western medicine is unwilling to admit (on a larger scale) that it is incomplete and therefore not open enough to seek alternatives as this may infer someone is inadequate or wrong. Here is the West stubbornness and ego getting in the way.

        3) The drug companies who supply the antidepressants make far too much money and are far too powerfull to allow Doctors to prescribe anything as simple as Chi Kung for example as the solution as it could potentially put them out of business.

        From the above it may sound like I do not support Western medicine, on the contrary, it is very much needed and does wonders for many things. It is the unnecessary and frequent use of drugs/pills that is wrong. There are wonderfull alternatives available once Western medicine and society at large start to recognise that our body's, our lives are not the Newtonian clockwork machine they believed it was. It is alive, it has energy, spirit, call it what you want and it it is this energy/spirit that needs nourishing most. If a car breaks down because the alternator breaks you would not pop a pill in the petrol tank and hope for the best, or polish the outside of the car to make it look shiney. No, you would fix the problem at route level.

        Our body is not as simple as the car but if we start at route level (energy) then this is a better place to start.

        Yes drugs can be damaging.
        Are they the answer to mental health problems? NO

        Start with Right Understanding
        Right Thought,
        Right speech
        Right Action
        Right livelihood
        Right Effort
        Right Concentration
        Right Contemplation

        Then in this lifetime or another you will have transended illness and suffering!
        Tim Franklin
        A story of finding Courage and Wisdom Classes and Courses for Shaolin Kung Fu, Taijiquan and Qigong in Bognor Regis, Chichester, West Sussex

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        • #5
          Healing ourselves is healing others

          Talking about mental diseases without talking about the environment is irrelevant.High pressure and high speed tempo of this modern society make this growing incidences of mental diseases possible.This is one of the global issues we are facing today, especially in rich western countries. Economically they are strong but spiritually they are weak. I see more and more patients with psychological, mental problems, especially in the last 10 - 15 years and in recent years I also see people, who are working in the health sectors as patients!. Physiotherapists, osteopaths, yoga teachers, healers, chikung instructors(yes!), doctors, nurses and also teachers.They come to me with psychosomatic diseases or psychological - mental problems varied from feeling blue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, phobias, chronic fatigue to total exhaustion and severe depression.
          Although these "diseases" if we may call them diseases are not infectious, they are highly contagious through energetical exchanges between the health providers and the patients and between the patients and their families/friends/colleagues. Nowadays it is very hard for us to keep our boats stable and to prevent them from sinking.

          Prescribing pills is certainly not the ideal solution but do the doctors have other options??.Yes, if they are trained in TCM, but there are many obstacles to overcome(see my post in Hypertension).Yes, if they are more informed about the side effects of drugs (most MD's get information about drugs from drug companies).Talking to Psychologists or Psychiatrists might also help, but these specialists are also vulnerable when they see too many patients.TCM in my opinion offers a better solution than western medicine because it is safer and its approach goes deeper than just relieving the symptoms. Patients should be encouraged to take their own responsabilities and to improve their life-styles. In certain cases however, such as severe depression with suicidal tendency or other major psychopathological diseases, taking pills is necessary as an initial step.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Black Hole
            Talking about mental diseases without talking about the environment is irrelevant.High pressure and high speed tempo of this modern society make this growing incidences of mental diseases possible.
            This is something I've wondered about a lot. Because it does seem like this is a very recent health crisis as you look back over history. And for such a dramatic increase in this problem to occur over the past couple of decades, it seems to me more people should be paying attention to it. Because society isn't slowing down. It's only getting faster.

            And the fact that giving people a pill is the number one solution that millions of people are following really scares me. Because from my limited knowledge of how the body works, taking a pill like this only releases energy that our body has stored. It's just a pill. There's not any energy "inside" the pill. It's just a "key" that unlocks energy we already have...stored throughout our bodies, and meant to sustain us over a lifetime. So when the body's energy is *already* low, the pill just taps deeper into it's energy supply. Does this sound about right to those of you who know TCM?

            So I think the question we really need to be thinking about is, when a body is in a weakened state and it's energy is low resulting in mental long will a pill really cover up the symptoms before it completely drains what little energy the person has left?

            I imagine it would depend a lot upon each unique case, and just how bad the problem was to begin with. But wouldn't anyone eventually reach a breaking point if they stayed on these pills long enough?

            These kinds of medication are relatively new. They haven't been around long enough for any kind of long term testing (over 20-30 years). I wonder if we will start to see people pre-maturely reaching the end of their bodies energy supplies after being on these pills their whole life. Could taking these pills be shaving decades off of your life?

            Hope this gives some things to think about. I would love to hear from people knowledgeable about TCM on these thoughts...and if this is what pills like these are actually doing to people.

            I'm floating down a river
            Oars freed from their holes long ago
            Lying face up on the floor of my vessel
            I marvel at the stars
            And feel my heart overflow


            • #7
              I have so far been very impressed by the power of Western psychiatry.

              Generally, in treatment of anxiety disorder, physicians use either medications or therapy. There are many types of both and a number of factors go into selection of one, including side effect profiles. Both therapy and pills work well, but they work best in combination, or at least that's my understanding of the literature. Doing therapy alone can be very effective for someone who wants to avoid medications, and there is evidence to indicate it works well.

              The thing one has to bear in mind is that in considering psychiatry as a whole, we generally are talking about doctors who work with people so sick they have to hospitalized. They can be very paranoid, see and hear things that aren't there, or be so elevated and euphoric that they are dangerous to themselves. I honestly did not feel safe around many of them, due mainly to my lack of training.

              Western psychiatry, however, does really a very impressive job of dealing with these types of problems. I am not arguing that it is better or worse than Chinese medicine, but only that it has a valuable role as well.

              But if you think it is hard to convince someone to take a pill every night, I wonder what percentage of people would practice chi kung? I think it would be less than 10% of the truly sick people I've seen, if that.

              If I had a choice, I'd want chi kung over medication, but that isn't the best for everyone and it depends upon the severity of what we are talking about.


              • #8
                Chi Kung to younger generations

                Originally posted by KungFuJoe

                If I had a choice, I'd want chi kung over medication, but that isn't the best for everyone and it depends upon the severity of what we are talking about.
                Severity of bad health(in most cases), occurs only when the body degenerates over a period of time. That means most of the severe cases occur only in middle-aged or even older bodies, not before that. So, it would be better if the control of pills(short form for western medicine) is lessened and the control of TCM and Chi Kung are increased on these severe cases.

                The more immediate concern is to somehow incorporate Chi Kung into the younger generation's lives(not only youth, but also children, say from 14 years of age) so that it becomes a part of their lifestyle. So their body does not degenerate so fast but go in its natural process. In this way, when they become older, they won't have "severe" problems. So the emphasis is more on prevention rather than cure. Moreover, they can have other benefits which Chi Kung is known for.

                This can inturn, revive the glory of Kung Fu as the next generations can be taught by the earlier generations and so on....

                Just my opinion.

                Warm regards to everyone
                Our life is such a miniscule speck of dust from the viewpoint of eternity.


                • #9
                  Here is an interesting article about the excess pressure coming from drugs companies, creating "a pill for every ill".

                  pills for every ill

                  Unfortunately this is all down to huge profits for the various drug companies.

                  In my small experience of going to a western practice they seemed to be very overworked with a constant stream of patients, and with myself were just trying out a different antibiotic with each appointment until they found one that worked.

                  In an ideal world medicine would incorporate the technology of western medicine with a holistic paradigm as outlined in Sifu's chinese medicine book (which is very good ). Unfortunately I don't think this will be as profitable so its probably unlikely.
                  Namo Amitabha Buddha


                  • #10
                    On the first day of the clinical section in my psychology course, the professor talked about anti-depressants. He made it clear to everyone that the drugs prescribed by doctors should be viewed as no more than a temporary means of alleviating immediate despair and hopelessness, to get the patient's feet off the ground, while the patient addressed the actual healing by seeking therapy or counseling. In his view, it ultimately came down to brain chemistry: the pill helped maintain a temporary balance (with side-effects) while long-term neurological change was promoted with the counseling. When asked how just talking to someone could alter brain chemistry, he screamed at the top of his lungs, "HOW ABOUT THIS???". It was funny at 9 in the morning, to say the least.
                    But it's sad to say, sometimes taking a pill becomes a much easier thing to do than to bother with counseling as well. A patient may think,"oh, I feel fine, I'll just keep taking this pill and not bother with counseling". It's like someone thinking, "oh, taking time out of my day to do qigong is too much trouble, I'll just watch tv instead". I had an acquaintance who was on several meds, and the only reason he saw his psychiatrist was to get a refill. The blame falls both with the doctor and the patient in these cases, though the most blame falls with the drug companies for aggressively marketing them as the magic bullet that can cure our ailments...


                    • #11

                      Hey folks,
                      I just thought I would add some of my own things. My profession is a Mental Health Nurse so I have direct experience in this field and training.

                      Everyone has made good points about western medicine. There are lots of factors that affect mental health. One of the main one is the paradigme between doctors and patients.

                      You have the doctor who may have little knowledge of the patient so makes a skewed diagnosis or has issues that effect their judgement about the patient e.g. they have been attaccked by the patient.

                      You have the patient who has a whole host of factors effecting them. Poor finacial situations, Social isolation, also there tends to be a lot of co morbidity (dual diagnosis) such a drug abuse. If we take drug abuse this can range from heroin use to smoking hash etc.

                      Just smoking hash can easily infleunce someone mental state ranging from lethargy, low mood to full on psychosis.

                      These are just some of the factors that effect someones mental health.

                      As for the pill culture. I agree fully that drug companies are pushing this way to much. One advert I saw was advertising anti-depressant for bad menstrual cycles. I saw this in America and was horrified.

                      The talking therapies counselling psychology etc can be good as they help a person reach a point or learn techniques that can help there mental illness..

                      A lot of things depend on the acuity of the illness. if the person is clinically depressed they may not be motivated to do anything ....even to eat!! so getting them to take medication or practise chi kung can could be incredibkly hard.

                      I think chi kung could benefit this field immensely as it works on so many levels it is is just incredibile that medication and talking therapies does not. If anything I would say chi kung would be the missing link between these two as it REALLY does take holistic view mental, physical, emotional and spiritual[U].

                      Pills and western medicine do have their place as they can help when someone is severly acute e.g.( suicidal,psychotic) and can get them to a place where Chi Kung and other therapies can have huge impact.

                      Also chi kung is one of the best to maintain someones health as it deals exellenty with chronic and enduring illnesses.

                      Sifu Mark Appleford



                      • #12
                        Dear friends,
                        I believe that a patient can only be healed if he or she really wants to. A pill only offers temporary relief. If a patient lacks the determination to change his or her situation permanently, than nothing on earth can really help him / her (even super chi kung)


                        I pay homage to all the great masters of the past and the present


                        • #13
                          I apologize if this is slightly off-topic, but several posts in this thread have been hinting at a question I've often thought about.

                          In the USA, as of five or so years ago, drug companies can advertise their prescription products on TV, in print, where ever. Since then, such advertisements have seemingly multiplied, especially with the advent of Vaigra, Cialis, etc.

                          Is there a strong correlation between this and the rise and influence of the drug companies to their present positions today or has it just caused this rise to be more out in the open (in public) as opposed to more behind the scenes?

                          Also, while I can see how such ads can cause people to proactively ask their doctors about drugs like Viagra, what effect, if any, do they have on those with mental illness? These patients seem less likely to proactively seek specific drugs from their doctors.

                          Is it largely just an effect where the drug companies are creating a society where pills and drugs are "acceptable" and "normal," i.e. mainstream?
                          Chris Didyk
                          Shaolin Wahnam USA

                          Thank You.


                          • #14
                            Intrigued too

                            I think the most important thing with managing any illness is the management and that sometimes is the difficulty with alternative medicines and conventional medical approaches too-it's the consistency. If one is prescribed a pill to take at 8am, one generally does it. Sometimes the same dedication and respect to more natural methods is overlooked and not attended to. This may lead to a disparity in the effectiveness of the treatment.
                            There is side effects with medications, numerous ones. Each individual should make the choice and the decision about what's best for them, and how they are going to keep balance in their lives. And decide how much of a change is needed, and how quickly that should occur.