Manic-Depressive Disorder in Eastern Medicine

Manic-depressive disorder, also known as bipolar disorder, is a mental illness classified by psychiatry as a mood disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of a very high mood known as mania alternating with episodes of depression. Some experience a mixed state in which features of both mania and depression are present simultaneously with one side prevailing over the other.

During mania, patients show abnormal agitation, exultance, expansive delusion, talkativeness, distraction and over sensitiveness. They are often extremely enthusiastic, optimistic, confident, show lots of gesture and move continuously.

On the other hand, during depression, patients show sadness, disappointment and desperate to listlessness, lethargy, indifference about one’s circumstance and loss of pleasure. Some complain of poor appetite with shallow or short sleeping. They also show slow movements, lowered mood, despondence, retardation with tendency to self-reproof and self-depreciation.

About 4% of people suffer from bipolar disorder. Genetic factors contribute substantially to the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder, but environmental factors are also implicated. Manic and depressive episodes last from a few days to several months and is often treated with mood stabilizing medications and psychotherapy in Western Medicine.

In Eastern Medicine, it is regarded that body and mind is of the same origin. They affect each other. Firstly, in the case that mental problem affects the physical body; it is typical that manic-depressive disorder is symptomatic in 7 excessive emotions such as joy, anger, worry, anxiety, sorrow, fear and astonishment. If we have these emotions for long time, these can change into stress(Qi stagnation) and harm our body and bring malfunctioning or unbalance primarily between the heart, liver and spleen which can lead to the production of blood stasis, phlegm fluid and deficient heat. These bad products in turn affect the brain. Secondly, in the case that bodily problems affect the mind, stagnation of Qi and blood, or phlegm fluid generated by malfunction of spleen and heart may obstruct collaterals in the brain and consequently bring Yang Syndrome(mania) and Yin Syndrome(depressive).

People differ in the responsiveness when dealing with their mental difficulties. Yang, or mania, type people tend to be explosive while Yin, or depressive, type people tend to be withered. Possible treatment could be to apply a method where the dominating type is suppressed and the less dominant is invigorated

Modern research shows that acupuncture is highly effective in controlling cranial nerves without side effects.

If the cause of manic-depressive disorder is mainly related with psychological problems, psychotherapy or meditation or Qi practice like Qi Gong are needed for treatment. These help people to see and be aware of their own flow of mind and emotion, and relax and stabilize the brain and neuro-system and strengthen vital energy. It is especially important to improve fundamental vitality through practicing breathing to focus low Dan Tien(we call Dan Tien breathing). Of course, combination of these methods; acupuncture and herb, psychotherapy, meditation and Qi practice is best.

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