Chinese medicine views illness as an expression of the personal violation of a person's true nature and calls upon individuals to become aware of how this violation is occurring both internally and externally. People are encouraged to examine lifestyle, cognitive processes, emotional tendencies, habits and values in order to understand their dysfunction (Hammer, 1990). Symptoms are regarded as consequences of poor living habits and the body's attempt to restore health. This contrasts with their meaning in the West, where symptom elimination at all costs is pursued. The Chinese principal is to restore function. Elimination of symptoms may be an important goal of treatment but it is not the ultimate goal. It is the physician's role to restore function and the patients' responsibility to maintain it (Hammer, 1990). Patient education is a highly regarded component of the medical system (Hammer, 1990).
Some Chinese practitioners have undertaken western style clinical trials, accepting only cases officially diagnosed using western psychiatric terms (Freuhauf, 1995). Others treat mental disorders based on Chinese symptomatology since many remedies are applicable to different manifestations of psychopathology (Freuhauf, 1995).
Just as the five elements of nature permeate the human being on different levels of existence, pathology exists in the Chinese system on several octaves. Damp exists on one level as mucoid substances stored in the lungs, and on others as obstructed thought processes and lack of insight into the self. The dampness is the result of a weak Spleen which physically manifests as poor digestion and is mentally expressed as inability to process experiences and to see the self clearly (Stone, 1998). The Spleen/Pancreas organ system controls ingestion, digestion, absorption and metabolism of food. Analogously it controls these function related to thought and higher cognitive processes. The high incidence of eating disorders in student populations, may be culturally influenced, but has also been attributed to injury to this element through excess study. While overuse of the psycho-emotional processes associated with this element has various consequences, weakness in this element causing the accumulation of Phlegm can lead to suppression of cognitive abilities. Interestingly, schizophrenics have been shown to have a deterioration in frontal cortex functioning, which governs these processes. The Spleen disharmony eloquently describes the energetic relationships that mediate the symptomatology of schizophrenia as it is recognized in the West (Hammer, 1990).
Many mental disturbances can be traced to different manifestation of internal Phlegm, a product of digestive frailty in the presence of internal unrestrained Fire (Hammer, 1990; Deadman & Al-Khafaji, 1995). There are herbs and acupuncture points that effectively remedy this situation (Hammer, 1990).
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