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Keywords:

  • altered consciousness;
  • China;
  • mental disorders;
  • Qigong;
  • trance

Objective: This review article aims to explore current opinions on Qigong-induced mental disorders, an entity which is unfamiliar to Western psychiatrists.

Method: Relevant literature published in Chinese and English is reviewed.

Results: The review is divided into three sections: first, there is brief consideration of the historical development of Qigong in traditional Chinese medicine and its role in psychiatry; second, there is a review of the literature published on Qigong deviations and Qigong-induced mental disorders; and third, there is a discussion on the aetiological role of Qigong in these conditions.

Conclusions: Qigong remained veiled in secrecy and available only to the elite until the early 1980s. Despite the widespread use of Qigong, there is a conspicuous lack of controlled data regarding its effects on mental health. Qigong, when practised inappropriately, may induce abnormal psychosomatic responses and even mental disorders. However, the ties between Qigong and mental disorders are manifold, and a causal relationship is difficult to establish. Many so-called ‘Qigong-induced psychoses’ may be more appropriately labelled ‘Qigong-precipitated psychoses’, where the practice of Qigong acts as a stressor in vulnerable individuals.