Depression, constraint and the liver: (dis)assembling the treatment of emotion-related disorders in Chinese medicine

Scheid, Volker (2013) Depression, constraint and the liver: (dis)assembling the treatment of emotion-related disorders in Chinese medicine. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 37 (1). pp. 30-58. ISSN 0165-005X


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Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is today practiced worldwide, rivaling biomedicine in terms of its globalization. One of the most common TCM diagnoses is “Liver qi constraint,” which, in turn, is commonly treated by an herbal formula dating back to the 10th century. In everyday TCM practice, biomedical disease categories such as depression or anxiety and popular disease categories such as stress are often conflated with the Chinese medical notion of constraint. Medical anthropologists, meanwhile, argue that constraint reveals to us a distinctive aesthetics of constructing body/persons in Chinese culture, while psychologists seek to define constraint as a distinctive psychiatric disorder distinctive from depression and anxiety. All of these actors agree in defining constraint as a concept dating back two thousand years to the very origins of Chinese medicine. This article disassembles the articulations by means of which these different facts about constraint are constructed. It shows how ideas about constraint as a disorder caused by the penetration of external pathogens into the body were gradually transformed from the eleventh century onward into constraint as an emotion-related disorder, while treatment strategies were adjusted to match perceptions about body/self that developed among the gentry elite of southeast China in late imperial China.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Science and Technology
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Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2012 14:27
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2015 10:12

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