Zou huo ru mo (medicine)
||This article needs attention from an expert in psychology. (January 2015)|
Zou huo ru mo or "qigong deviation", is a Chinese term traditionally used to indicate that something has gone wrong in martial arts training, applied to describe a physiological or psychological disorder believed to result during or after qigong practice, believed by the qigong community to result from "improper practice" of qigong and other self-cultivation techniques, and highlighted in the social and political context of mass popularization of qigong in China.
The term zou huo ru mo means "Walking fire entering demon". In recent times this syndrome has been known as qi gong pian cha "qigong deviation". The term has traditionally been applied to indicate that something has gone wrong in one's martial arts training, interpreted as "imbalance of qi (life energy)". In more recent history, the term has been applied to refer to undesirable somatic or psychological effects experienced during or after the practice of the broad range of Chinese self-cultivation exercises known as qigong. Most cases do not last for an extended period of time, and are never brought to medical attention. While qigong may act as a stressor in vulnerable individuals, relations between qigong and disorders are manifold, and causal relationships have not been demonstrated. Similar syndromes have been observed in other forms of self-cultivation practices such as yoga (Kundalini syndrome), meditation, and hypnosis.
Symptoms are often identified as being in one of three categories:
- panic, discomfort, and uncontrolled spontaneous movement;
- sensory problems, such as visual or auditory hallucination; and
- irrational beliefs.
Somatic symptoms can include sensations and pain in head, chest and back, abdomen, limbs, or whole body; whereas, mental and emotional symptoms can include neurasthenia, affective disorder, self-consciousness, hallucination, and paranoia.:165–167
While the Chinese Society of Psychiatry prefers the term "qigong deviation", the American Psychiatric Association uses psychosis terminology. Some physicians believe that this disease can be categorized as a culture-bound syndrome, but this point is debated.
In the second edition of the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (CCMD-2) published by the Chinese Society of Psychiatry the diagnosis of “Qigong Deviation Syndrome” is based upon the following criteria:
- The subject being demonstrably normal before doing qigong exercises
- Psychological and physiological reactions appearing during or after qigong exercises (suggestion and autosuggestion may play an important role in these reactions)
- Complaints of abnormal sensations during or after qigong exercises
- Diagnostic criteria do not meet other mental disorders such as schizophrenia, affective disorder, and neurosis.
In the West, there was no equivalent experience until the adoption of qigong practices by the public. When the Western medical community encountered abnormal conditions presenting in patients practicing qigong, they used the term "Qi-gong psychotic reaction" and classified the disorder as a culture-bound syndrome in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association. It is described as
[a] term describing an acute, time-limited episode characterized by disassociative, paranoid, or other psychotic or non-psychotic symptoms that may occur after participation in the Chinese folk health-enhancing practice of qigong. Especially vulnerable are individuals who become overly involved in the practice.
In order to diagnose this disease in the West, practitioners determine the cultural formation of the patient; this includes their cultural reference group and how that culture might explain their illness.
The DSM-IV classification has been criticized by other Western psychiatrists on the grounds that
[i]t is not clear how the architects of the DSM-IV can logically defend labeling a syndrome as aberrant in the context of a diagnostic system while simultaneously placing that syndrome outside of conventional Western nosologic categories that serve as basis for determining whether a syndrome is or is not aberrant and therefore a disorder.
The appearance of symptoms during or after qigong practice has been explained in various ways by the psychiatric community, in severe cases as an indication of latent psychosis. The Chinese medical literature includes a wider variety of symptoms associated with qigong deviation; the non-psychotic symptoms correspond to conversion disorder and histrionic personality disorder in Western classifications.
In cases of psychosis, a Western psychiatric belief is that qigong could be a precipitating stressor of a latent psychotic disorder to which the patient is predisposed, rather than erroneous qigong practice; a type of reactive psychosis or the precipitation of an underlying mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder.
Qigong community perspective
Within the qigong community, Zou huo ru mo is believed to be caused by improper practice:
- Inexperienced or unqualified instructor
- Incorrect instructions
- Becoming frightened, irritated, confused, or suspicious during the course of qigong practice
- Inappropriate focus, interpreted as "inappropriate channeling of qi (life energy)i"
Within the qigong community, there are specific treatments believed to be effective for addressing different forms of Zou huo ru mo. In particular, depending upon somatic versus psychological symptoms, and whether the condition is considered temporary or an intrinsic mental disorder, self-correction treatments can involve relaxation, walking, self-vibrating, self-patting, and self-massage; whereas clinical treatments can involve psychological counseling, expert guidance of practice, acupuncture, massage, "external qi" treatments, and symptomatic correction:164–173
Social and political context
Qigong deviation was highlighted in the context of political controversy during the 1990s, when the Chinese government became concerned about loss of state control due to widespread popularity of qigong, mass practice, and rise to power of charismatic qigong "grandmasters".
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