How Are Minor Mental Health Problems Perceived by Traditional Chinese Medicine?


The purpose of this study was to reach a better understanding of how minor mental health problems (MMP) are perceived in China by professionals practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and by well-educated people living in three urban locations. The results derive from interviews with three TCM doctors, three TCM students and eight other students. Psychological problems are separated into two different categories: “serious” and “not serious”. MMP are labelled not as disorders or illnesses but looked upon as ordinary problems in daily living or as “heart problems”. MMP seem to have less serious consequences according to the Chinese than from a modern Western perspective. “Problems of life” rather than sickness was the category that best summarized perceptions of MMP. TCM professionals’ advice to change lifestyle and most Chinese regulate by themselves less serious mental problems. Both lay people and TCM professionals associate serious problems with pathological mental function in a disease perspective. Some reasons for and consequences of these comprehensions are discussed.

Share and Cite:

A. Kolstad and N. Gjesvik, "How Are Minor Mental Health Problems Perceived by Traditional Chinese Medicine?," Chinese Medicine, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2012, pp. 79-86. doi: 10.4236/cm.2012.32013.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] X. Cheng, “Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion,” Revised Edition, Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 2004.
[2] O. Heyerdahl and N. Lystad, “Traditional Chinese Acupuncture. Its Philosophy and Application in Modern Medicine. Textbook 2,” Norwegian Doctors Acupuncture Courses, Trondheim, 2000.
[3] Z. J. Lipowski, “What does the Word ‘Psychosomatic’ Really Mean? A Historical and Semantic Inquiry,” Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 46, No. 2, 1984, pp. 153-171.
[4] T. Ots, “The Silenced Body—the Expressive Leib: On the Dialectic of Mind and Life in Chinese Cathartic Healing,” In: T. J. Csordas, Ed., Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1994, pp. 116-136.
[5] B. Flaws and J. Lake, “Chinese Medical Psychiatry: A Textbook and Clinical Manual,” Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 2004.
[6] S.-M. Ng, C. L. W. Chan, D. Y. F. Ho, Y.-Y. Wong and R. T. H. Ho, “Stagnation as a Distinct Clinical Syndrome: Comparing ‘Yu’ (Stagnation) in Traditional Chinese Medicine with Depression,” British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2006, pp.467-484. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcl008
[7] T. Parsons, “Definitions of Health and Illness in the Light of the American Values and Social Structure,” In: E. Jaco and E. Gartley, Eds., Patients, Physicans and Illness: A Resource Book in Behavioral Science and Health, Collier-Macmillan, London, 1979, pp. 165-187.
[8] W. Mogel, “The Oy Oy Oy Show: How Anxiety Harms Student Academic Performance,” 2005.
[9] Y. Zhang, “Negotiating a Path to Efficacy at a Clinic of Traditional Chinese Medicine,” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2007, pp. 73-100. doi:10.1007/s11013-006-9039-6
[10] X. Wang, “Life Cultivation and Rehabilitation of Traditional Chinese Medicine,” Publishing House of Shanghai University of Traditional Medicine, Shanghai, 2003.
[11] W.-S. Tseng and D. Y. H. Wu, “Chinese Culture and Mental Health,” Academic Press, Orlando, 1985.
[12] A. Kleinman and T.-Y. Lin, “Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Chinese Culture,” D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, 1981.
[13] K. Yip, “Taoistic Concepts of Mental Health: Implications for Social Work Practice with Chinese Communities,” Families in Society, Vol. 86, No. 1, 2006, pp. 35-45.
[14] K. Yip, “Community Mental Health in the People’s Republic of China: A Critical Analysis,” Community Mental Health Journal, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2006, pp. 41-51.
[15] N. Z. Hampton, T. Yeung and C. H. Nguyen, “Perceptions of Mental Illness and Rehabilitation Service in Chinese and Vietnamese Americans,” Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2007, pp. 14-48.
[16] S. Lee, “Fat, Fatigue and the Feminine: the Changing Cultural Experience of Women in Hong Kong,” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, Vol. 23, No. 1, 1999, pp. 51-77. doi:10.1023/A:1005451614729
[17] G. Parker, G. Gladstone and K. T. Chee, “Depression in the Planet’s Largest Ethnic Group: The Chinese,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 158, No. 6, 2001, pp. 857-864.
[18] M. Q. Patton, “Purposeful Sampling I: Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods,” Sage, London, 1990.
[19] A. Kleinman, “Rethinking Psychiatry: From Cultural Category to Personal Experience,” The Free Press, New York, 1988.
[20] A. Kleinman, “Writing at the Margin: Discourse between Anthropology and Medicine,” University of California Press, Berkeley, 1995.
[21] T.-J. Ekeland, “A Diagnosis of Psychiatry Diagnoses,” Impuls, Journal of psychology, Vol. 57, No. 1, 2003, pp. 56-64.
[22] D. Y. Yue, “NACS Conference Chinese Culture and Philosophy: Some Characteristics of Chinese Culture and Its Possible Contributions to the World,” 2007.
[23] Collins, “English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary,” Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, Beijing, 2004.
[24] C. G. Helman, “Culture, Health and Illness,” 5th Edition, Hodder Arnold, London, 2007.
[25] G. Canguilhem, “A Critical Examination of Certain Concepts: The Normal, Anomaly and Diesase; the Normal and the Experimental,” In: G. Canguilhem, Ed., The Normal, and the Pathological, Zone Books, New York, 1991, pp. 125-149.
[26] R. E. Nisbett, “The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently and Why,” Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, Boston, 2005.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.