Symptom family: Neurological Disorders

What is Hysteria?

Hysteria, in the realms of both contemporary psychology and historical medicine, denotes a condition marked by emotional excess. Though its definition has evolved over time, it generally encapsulates what modern diagnostics refer to as conversion disorder—a manifestation of psychological stress in physical symptoms without a discernible organic cause.

These symptoms can be varied, often dramatic, and include psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, paralysis, or other sensory disturbances. Traditional nomenclature such as 'hysterical disorder' and 'conversion hysteria' reflects the enigmatic nature of the condition, which remains a complex challenge in mental health.

How Does TCM View Hysteria?

In the landscape of Traditional Chinese Medicine, hysteria is perceived through a lens of holistic balance, or the lack thereof, within the body's internal ecosystem. The ancient practice interprets such psychological disturbances as a disharmony in the vital life force—Qi—and the Blood, often precipitated by emotional turmoil or physiological imbalances.

The goal is to discern the 'pattern'—a unique TCM concept of symptom clusters that reflect an underlying imbalance. Recognizing these patterns, such as Qi Stagnation or a deficiency of heart blood, is essential in TCM, as they guide the practitioner to the most harmonious treatment path.

Causes of Hysteria According to TCM

In the delicate equilibrium of body and mind that TCM seeks to maintain, the causes of hysteria are multifactorial and nuanced. The Liver, seen as the seat of emotions, when constrained, can lead to Qi Stagnation—resulting in emotional volatility and physical symptoms associated with hysteria.

Similarly, the Heart, which houses the Mind or 'Shen' in TCM, when Deficient in blood, can fail to anchor the Shen, leading to restlessness and disquietude. Another common pattern is the unsettling influence of Phlegm, which, when clouding the Mind, can lead to confusion and emotional distress. It is the astute analysis of these patterns that allows TCM practitioners to tailor their therapeutic approaches effectively.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Hysteria

The multifaceted nature of hysteria in TCM is addressed with a range of herbal formulas. For example, the warming and sensory-orifice-opening properties of Su He Xiang Wan target the dispelling of Phlegm that obscures the Heart and Mind, a common pathological pattern in hysteria.

For cases where underlying Heat arises from Deficiency, cooling formulas like Bai He Di Huang Tang serve to nourish Yin and clear the resulting Heat, thus calming the Shen and alleviating agitation. When Qi Stagnation plays a role, formulas such as Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang are employed to ensure the free flow of Qi, particularly in the digestive and emotional realms, thereby easing the somatic manifestations of hysteria.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address hysteria, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that warm and open sensory orifices
  • Formulas that clear heat from deficiency
  • Formulas that promote qi movement
  • Formulas that nourish the heart and calm the mind
  • Formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation
  • Formulas that dredge and disperse external wind

All "formulas that warm and open sensory orifices" recommended for hysteria

Formula Key herbs
Su He Xiang Wan Styrax (Su He Xiang), Musk (She Xiang), Borneol (Bing Pian), Benzoin (An Xi Xiang)
Tong Guan San Chinese Honeylocust Abnormal Fruits (Zhu Ya Zao)

Acupoints for Hysteria

Acupuncture, another pillar of TCM, employs specific points to restore balance. For example, Zhengying GB-17 on the Gall Bladder meridian is often selected for its potential to clear the mind and subdue excess Yang, which in TCM terms, can contribute to the manic manifestations of hysteria. Each point is chosen not only for its local influence but also for its capacity to harmonize the flow of Qi throughout the body, reflecting the interconnected nature of human physiology as understood by TCM.

In crafting a treatment plan, TCM practitioners weave together a tapestry of interventions—dietary, herbal, and acupuncture-based—to not just treat hysteria but to nurture a state of wellness that preempts its recurrence.

See more details below about Zhengying GB-17, an acupoint used to address hysteria.

  • By Meridian
  • Gall Bladder Channel
Zhengying GB-17

Zhengying GB-17

1 cun posterior to Muchuang GB-16 or 2.5 cun posterior to the anterior hairline.

TCM Herbs for Hysteria

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address hysteria, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Herbs that open the orifices
  • Warm herbs that transform phlegm and stop cough
  • Herbs that anchor and calm the spirit
  • Tonic herbs for yin deficiency
  • Aromatic herbs that transform dampness
  • Herbs that stabilize and bind
  • Herbs that invigorate the blood
  • Purgative herbs that drain downward
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Tonic herbs for qi deficiency

"Herbs that open the Orifices" recommended for hysteria

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Styrax (Su He Xiang) Su He Xiang Wan
Musk (She Xiang) Su He Xiang Wan
Borneol (Bing Pian) Su He Xiang Wan
Benzoin (An Xi Xiang) Su He Xiang Wan

"Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough" recommended for hysteria

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang
Chinese Honeylocust Abnormal Fruits (Zhu Ya Zao) Tong Guan San

"Herbs that anchor and calm the Spirit" recommended for hysteria

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Dragon Bones (Long Gu) Feng Yin Tang
Oyster Shells (Mu Li ke) Feng Yin Tang