Qigong Deviation Syndrome in China

The next culture bound syndrome comes from China. Qigong deviation syndrome is classified as a culturally-bound mental health condition in the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders, and it was listed in the DSM-IV also.

Qigong deviation syndrome can occur if one practices martial arts or qigong improperly. A western clinician would probably interpret the disorder as a brief psychotic episode. Symptoms include “perception of uncontrolled movement of qi in the body, sensory problems such as visual or auditory hallucination, and belief that the practitioner is controlled by qi or other entities such as spirits or negative energies.”

In Chinese the disorder is called zou huo ru mo ( 走火入魔 ) which means “catching fire entering demon.” When reading some discussions on blogs and forums, those within the Qigong community attribute the disorder to an incorrect practice caused by practicing too much or without a competent teacher.

Interestingly, the practice of qigong was banned by the Chinese government between 1966—1978. Alleyne suggests that there are political motives within China to overemphasize the danger of this disorder as a way to dissuade people from practicing qigong.


Further Reading:

Zou huo ru mo (medicine) in the World Heritage Encyclopedia Edition

Culture-Bound Psychiatric Disorders Associated with Qigong Practice in China by Dr HH Shan, MD, Director, Department of Social and Cross Culture Psychiatry, Shanghai XuHui Mental Health Center, Shanghai, China.

How to Minimize the Effects of Qigong Deviations in Neigong Practice by Stanton Alleyne in the Qi Journal

Qigong Deviation Syndrome by Bob Flaws in the Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry 2000

Psychophysiological Reactions Associated with Qigong Therapy by Xu Shenghan, Shanghai Mental Health Center, Psychiatric Department, Shanghai Medical University, Fall 1994

Chinese Qigong and the Qigong-Induced Mental Disorders by Kevin Chen (responding to an article) in the British Medical Journal 2000 (BMJ 2000;320:803  )


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