Mozart’s Medical Cabinet – Alternative Mental Health




Alternative_Medicine.jpgChinese Medicine includes two major symptom patterns that are associated with depressed mood changes. One pattern, “liver qi depression,” is similar to “agitated depression” in Western psychiatry. The other pattern, “qi vacuity,” is similar to “vegetative depressed mood.” The Chinese medical system of classification includes many disorders characterized by depressive mood changes.

Several days ago, I was lucky enough to see a production of Don Giovanni, a Mozart opera that is widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed. Funny thing though, Mozart had composed much of the piece during a particularly stressful period in life. In 1787, a year that brought financial difficulty, the deaths of two close friends, his father, and his pet starling, Mozart produced what the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called the “the greatest work of art in the history of mankind”? Further, under conditions that would induce a general anxiety disorder or major depression in some, Mozart composed the legendary Don Giovanni, three string quartets, four songs and a sonata. In fact, without the use of modern-day antidepressants, antianxiolitics, beta-blockers or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, Mozart in a span of 25 years produced over 600 pieces of art by the time he died at 35 years of age. Many sources assert that he was in fact clinically depressed. If so, how did he manage his medical health? Once option was certainly what we refer to today as Alternative Medicine. For instance, AlternativeMentalHealth.com states:

Chinese Medicine includes two major symptom patterns that are associated with depressed mood changes. One pattern, “liver qi depression,” is similar to “agitated depression” in Western psychiatry. The other pattern, “qi vacuity,” is similar to “vegetative depressed mood.” The Chinese medical system of classification includes many disorders characterized by depressive mood changes. These include, principally, “Frequent Sorrow,” and “Withdrawal and Mania.” These diagnostic categories in Chinese medicine are similar though not equivalent to Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, respectively.

The question on the floor tonight is: Can Mood Disorders Be Treated With Alternative Medical Treatments?

  • the general answer to this, i think, is, “whatever works, works” and its converse, “whatever doesn’t work, doesn’t work”. when you talk to people with any mental health issues, you will find a very wide variety of approaches that have worked for them, and that includes TCM (traditional chinese medicine).

    so maybe the question could be – what’s the FIRST choice of treatment to be tried? of course that depends on a variety of factors, not the least of them what the client thinks would work.

    when meeting someone whose bipolar symptoms don’t seem to quickly go away with psychotherapy, would i immediately suggest that she seek out TCM? probably not. the first reason for that is because i haven’t seen anyone who has been helped by it. (which, of course, doesn’t prove that it doesn’t work – absence of evidence never proves anything).

    if that client felt that TCM was the right treatment to pursue, i would inform her that from my experience, the next thing to try may be conventional western medication but if she still felt that TCM was the way to go, i would support her in it. and then see what happens. chronic conditions often need a lot of experimenting.

Tony Brown, BA, EMT

Tony Brown, BA, EMT, graduated cum laude from Harvard University. He served as an EMT in the US Army stationed in Germany.
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