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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Chinese medicine closely follows the seasons as one of our many diagnosis tools. According to traditional Chinese medicine, spring is the time of the liver and gall bladder. Spring represents growth, as flowers bloom and trees grow. Our bodies are affected by this environmental change and as such, we must take care of our bodies when these changes take place.

May is mental health awareness month. Mental health conditions that often come to mind are depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disease. This article will briefly discuss these diseases that commonly affects us during spring.

In Chinese medicine the liver organ is closely related to mental health. When the liver is diseased in the superficial layer, we commonly see symptoms such as alternating chills and fever, poor appetite, and light headaches. If left untreated the symptoms will go deeper into our body. This can lead to more serious symptoms such as mood swings, frustration, explosive anger, irritability, and even mania.

Our emotions find their way to the surface and may explode forth more easily in the spring than at any other time of year. Other emotional difficulties related to anger that may bubble up are impatience, frustration, resentment, rudeness, edginess, arrogance and aggression.

The liver organ represents “qi”, or energetic function, in our body. It is because of qi that our organs are in place in our body. A sudden weakness of the liver can lead to qi weakness. The first expression of qi weakness is stress. Overwhelming stress can overtime cause the liver to sink resulting in western disease classification of depression: a low mood sensation, feeling “down” or even a sensation of being stuck or oppressed in one’s situation. This can affect your overall body, such as your moods, appetite, energy and motivation.

In acupuncture theory, the liver meridian travels from our foot to our ribs area. However there is an extra branch from the liver meridian that branches off and travels all the way up to our head, right behind our eyes. If the liver is diseased, that meridian can be affected, manifesting as light headaches to migraines. These symptoms can affect mood and appear as mania, or bipolar to some.

The liver is affected by the wind. The liver can become agitated when there is an abundance of wind. When the liver is stirred by wind, it can affect our liver meridian, which travels up through our body into our brain and behind our eyes. This can cause many people to think they are hearing voices or random noises even though there is none. This is one of the many signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. Confusion and unclear thinking can also occur when our liver organ and meridian are affected.

O.C.D. (obsessive compulsive disorder) is another mental health disorder that is related to the liver. The liver represents the element of Wood in element theory. Wood people tend to be very rigid both in body and in mind. Just like a tree, they are sturdy, not easily moved, rigid. They commonly have a “my way or the highway” mentality, developing routines that we tend to classify as obsessive and not easily breakable like a habit. Anxiety is another common symptom among o.c.d. patients, as it is also a symptom of depression.

As you can see, the liver is responsible for a lot of health issues not just in the month of May, but during the entire spring season as well. We hope this article brings more awareness into mental health. As always if you know of someone who suffers from depression or bipolar, or any mental health disorder, please send them this article. Chinese medicine can help treat the root cause of many mental health disorders by taking into consideration season, body type, and symptoms. Knowing the root of where the disease comes from lets us not only treat the symptoms, but also make sure the same symptoms do not occur again.

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