Shenzhi Theory: A Clinical Model of the Mind and Mental Illness in Chinese Medicine

West End, Qld
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, 2008, 3 (2), pp. 13 - 17
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The term shenzhi means 'spirit-mind' and refers to the five spirits (shen, hun, po, yi, zhi) of early Chinese medical theorising. The theory of shenzhi provides a conceptual model that helps to explain Chinese medicine's perspective on human consciousness and body-mind physiology. Each of the five spirits (wushen) governs certain aspects of mentality and is closely related to sensory faculties, body tissues, visceral systems, and physiological substances. Orderly, integrated wushen activities provide the human organism with its distinctive array of mental and sensory abilities including intelligence, insight, attention, and memory. When these physiological activities and relationships are disrupted, a variety of common or more serious disorders may result. Broadly speaking, they are 'mind' or 'mental' disorders - shenzhi bing. We discuss some of these to illustrate the diagnostic relevance of shenzhi theory for the Chinese medical clinic today. Analysis of their signs and symptoms allows the practitioner to identify disordered wushen activities. A brief discussion of psychological classifications, pathomechanisms and treatment examples is included to help link the theory to contemporary clinical presentations.
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