“Depression” is a term that has become more and more prevalent in our modern times, perhaps even more so during this current ongoing global phenomenon that was brought on by the “coronavirus”.

So, what is it to be “depressed”?
According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “depression” is described as:
“Any of several mood disorders marked by loss of interest or pleasure in living.”
Characteristic symptoms include:

>> persistent sadness, hopelessness, or tearfulness
>> loss of energy or persistent fatigue
>> persistent feelings of guilt or self-criticism
>> a sense of worthlessness
>> irritability
>> inability to concentrate
>> decreased interest in daily activities
>> changes in appetite or body weight
>> insomnia or excessive sleep
>> and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Surely all of us can relate to at least some of the above experiences in some way. Often, a person who is diagnosed as ‘depressed’ is thought of as having something ‘wrong’ with them, and can experience huge societal stigma. Commonly these states are addressed with psychological counseling and strong pharmaceutical drugs.

Cross-culturally, we are not only taught to NOT openly express how we are truly feeling (especially when not well), but also that to do so is a sign of weakness. This places more pressure on a mentally and emotionally troubled person to further suppress what they are feeling, resulting at some inevitable point in time in them becoming overwhelmed. At this stage there is extreme vulnerability to resorting to aggression towards self or others.

Chinese medicine has a unique understanding of “depression”, based on the effects that the various emotions we experience throughout life have on the body and how it consequently continues to work. More specifically, how each emotion influences certain organs directly, especially when these influences are sustained over longer periods of time. The relevant emotion(s) will express through a unique pattern of signs and symptoms.

Emotions are considered to be the internal causative factors of illness in Chinese medicine. Here it is important to understand that it is not only the excessive and/or sustained expression of emotions, but also the lack of expressing emotions that generate symptoms. This means that it is healthy to express anger, sadness, joy, melancholy, fear, fright, anxiety, so long as it is appropriate to the circumstances and does not endure to then begin to overwhelm the person.

Along with this understanding, comes a holistic approach that involves a combination of unique therapeutic tools. In my practice I emphasise the regular use of acupuncture, herbal medicine and Qi Gong/breathing exercises to address the organ relationships that account for the person’s individual expression of their depression. I also include cupping, Tui-na massage and Gua-sha friction therapy to enhance the treatment effect.

In the same way that the body needs space within and without to move, so also does the mind. Any kind of repetitive thought pattern will have a certain emotional response associated with it. If this emotion is intense and/or sustained, it will begin to consume your reserves and eventually deplete them as you succumb to what will have become ingrained emotional tendencies.

Chinese medicine is a safe and powerful tool that encourages the effects of the emotions to settle, thereby giving your body and you in it an opportunity to recalibrate and consequently regain clarity of mind as these tendencies come undone.

This enables you to gain realistic control over your emotional responses to your thoughts and no longer be guided off by them instead.
Additionally, throughout the treatment process you will become empowered with practical coping tools that will eventually serve you to become ever less vulnerable and ever more resilient in body and especially mind as you continue on with your life.

So whether you are currently seeing a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist, or neither, I invite you to discover and explore a new lens through which to make sense of your life experience and gain control over your relationship to it.


Dr. Thomas Jahn has been studying and training Qi Gong and Internal Martial Arts for the past thirty years, and Chinese Medicine for the past 25 years in a host of countries including Japan, the USA, China and, more recently, South Africa. He has had the great fortune of being able to witness the successful application of this medicine in a broad variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, substance abuse clinics, hospice, sports medicine, homeless clinics, as well as in integrative and private practices. Thomas started learning to read and write traditional Chinese characters over 30 thirty years ago. He has subsequently transcribed numerous original texts on Chinese medicine, martial arts and Qi Gong. His ongoing passion for this unique language grants him a deep understanding of the medicine and the arts he practices and teaches.