Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Scizophrenia Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, etc.


















Schizophrenia and Oriental Medicine
by Brian Carter, MS, LAc

Brian is the founder of the Pulse of Oriental Medicine. He teaches at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and maintains a private acupuncture and herbal practice in San Diego, California, and is the author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.

Schizophrenia (there are many descriptions including paranoid, catatonic, and affective) often first shows symptoms in childhood or young adulthood. Its cause in biomedical terms is not totally clear. Oriental Medicine, however, has some insights into its cause and treatment. Here we review some of the symptoms, latest research and statistics, diagnosis, and other information including acupuncture treatment for schizophrenia.
  Schizophrenia is a common mental illness; 60-80% of institutionalized patients have it. Commonly confused with Multiple Personality Disorder, schizophrenia is characterized by
delusions, hallucinations, incoherence, catatonic behavior, and lack of emotion.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the APA, Fourth Edition (DSMIV), Schizophrenia falls under the bigger umbrella of Psychosis. There are quite exact and complex criteria for the diagnosis of Schizophrenia.

Warning Signs
Schizophrenia usually appears in males in their early 20's. Early symptoms of schizophrenia are social withdrawal, impaired work function, deteriorating self care, peculiar behavior, such as food hoarding or garbage collecting, dimness of awareness, unusual speech (vague, metaphorical, elaborate), and magical thinking (clairvoyance or telepathy). Schizophrenics often do not admit to being ill, so healthcare practitioners may have to get the necessary information from family, neighbors, co-workers, or friends.

Differential Diagnosis
Schizophrenia should be distinguished from other physical diseases and psychiatric disorders. Physical diseases with similar presentations to schizophrenia are Central Nervous System lesions, brain tumors, hyperthyroidism, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Multiple Sclerosis, delirium, dementia, and the effects of drugs. Similar psychiatric disorders are schizophrenoform, brief psychotic, delusional, schizoaffective, and substance-induced disorders

What triggers the onset of schizophrenia is unclear. Some type of trauma is often associated with onset, whether emotional, fatigue, dietary, medicinal minerals, or accidental injuries.

Oriental medicine sees 2 primary causes of schizophrenia:

  • emotional excess, and
  • environmental excess
  Emotional Excess
Oriental medicine integrates emotions into its understanding of the whole person's well being. It works both ways - emotions can cause disease and imbalances
can lead to emotional responses. The subject of which emotions are related to which diseases is broad, and beyond the scope of this article. Even in terms of schizophrenia, the interaction of emotions with the body, mind, and other emotions is complex. Suffice it to say that excesses of joy, fright, anxiety, thought, anger, and sorrow can lead simply to imbalance or begin a downward spiral into more serious conditions such as schizophrenia. Other causes or associations with the onset of schizophrenia are poor childhood interpersonal relations, introverted tendencies, family history, extreme emotion or trauma to the schizophrenic's mother during pregnancy, and tense family atmosphere during childhood.

Thomas Dey's book, "Soothing the Troubled Mind" provides ample suggestions for preventing not only schizophrenia, but all emotional or mental disturbance. Here are a few:

  • Avoid overthinking
  • Accept attainments as successes
  • Avoid overly ambitious goals- frustrated plans can lead to withdrawal and depression
  • Strive to be open-hearted, open-minded, and content
  • Sever thoughts of selfishness- form social bonds to sustain you in times of trouble
  • Pregnant mothers should be protected and protect themselves, avoiding harsh environments, eating well, living in peaceful environments, maintaining a pleasant mental state

It is also important to get good rest, avoid insomnia and fatigue, work and live moderately, and have a steady routine.

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Chinese Medical Diagnosis and Treatment
"Schizophrenia" is a psychiatric term not traditionally used by Oriental medicine. Two diagnostic tools, the TCM disease and pattern-differentiation are most often utilized for internal disease.

Some historical TCM diseases fit that the clinical picture of schizophrenia are Withdrawal, Mania, Easily Awakened, Anxiety and Thinking, Deranged Speech, Frequent Joy, and Feeblemindedness. Each schizophrenic might have any combination of these TCM diseases at one time. Interestingly, Withdrawal and Mania are often part of a bipolar depressive pattern. Some patients have both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

  After diagnosing the appropriate TCM diseases, the practitioner differentiates (based on the symptom-picture) which zang-fu patterns the patient has. Next, knowledge of TCM pathomechanisms (understanding of the way
diseases and disease agents operate in the body) aids the practitioner in arriving at a comprehensive, holistic diagnosis. This understanding allows the practitioner not only to create a lucid historical picture of how the disease originated and progressed, but also to select acupuncture points and an herbal formula to enhance health and restore balance.

There is some anecdotal evidence that the NADA treatment, which is a highly successful supportive ear-acupuncture therapy for addiction, also has good effect on schizophrenics. Director of New York's Lincoln Hospital's Division of Substance Abuse, Dr. Michael Smith, told a story at the 1999 Pacific Symposium about institutionalized schizophrenics who were given the NADA treatment. These patients went from averaging 5 packs of cigarettes each per day down to an average of 1 pack per day, and were transformed from catatonic, shuffling zombies to interested, curious, demanding the right to form a council and have a field trip! The nurses, accustomed to an easier to manage catatonic, drugged population, were intially less than excited.

The patients were ultimately allowed their field trip, only after the hospital insured each county through which they were to travel.

Further Reading

Read our follow-up article:
"Living With Schizophrenia," on the Pulse!

Suggested Reading

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All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
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