Friday, December 17, 2010

Practitioners be warned

Recently I came across an article, published in Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry Nov 2000, with the title: Culture-bound psychiatric disorders associated with qiong practice in China, written by Dr. HH Shan (MD, Director, Department of Social and Cross Culture Psychiatry, Shanghai XuHui Mental Health Center, Shanghai, China). (Linkage here) Being a former psychology major in University, I find the article very interesting.

As with other mind-body exercises, chi-kung (qigong) can affect not only the physical part of one's body but also one's mental part. In most cases, a practitioner seeks for such beneficial psychological changes as calming one's mind, better sleep, more energetic, be with higher EQ etc, in short with higher and/or more controlled psyche energy. As with doing other activities for good (like being more religious or even playing soccer), chi-kung does can have adverse effect sometimes. Some are minor. But the worst scenario is a self-induced onset of psychotic disease (like schizophrenia and neurosis) which one should definitely try to avoid.

In terms of prevention, the article said psychological education is needed before and after practicing chi-kung. This essentially means a practitioner should be alerted of possible onset of psychological disease, and if such symptoms occurred (such as hallucinations, seeing things and hearing voices) one should immediately stop practicing and consult a chi-kung expert and/or a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

The article also mentioned that "according to conventional beliefs, Qigong-induced psychiatric disorders could easily occur under the following conditions:
  1. The Qigong exerciser attempts to achieve an upper or top level coordination between mind and body at the beginning of the exercise, when Qigong practice should proceed step-by-step.
  2. Vulnerable individuals over-perform the practice. They are likely to have had neurotic disorders or personalities before they started practising Qigong.
  3. Bad management of Qigong practice — the exerciser does too much Qigong, perhaps every day, or cannot stop practising.
  4. Some exercisers blindly self-teach themselves without proper guidance by a Qigong master. Some exercisers fail in the correct application of the three key elements of Qigong: management of body posture, management of breathing and exercise management."

I think the above are all good advice. I would further advice that a practitioner should not be oversold (or himself believing and overselling others!) the benefits of their practice: Like healing various ailment through external chi without touching, having hallucinations as a practice objective (unless a practitioner doing it for religious purpose and under the guidance of a reputable religious leader), great healing power (like can cure cancer [which by extrapolation can practically cure any disease], and for minor disease: no more flu and no more sore throat during the cold seasons), and, for martial art practice, able to throw people into the air without touching them physically. The result: One might fail to seek early essential professional medical treatment or, in case of combat, neglect to practice the basics which are essential for proper self-defense.

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