How is mental health dealt with by Bhuddists? Is it believed to be a tangible issue e.g. imbalances of chemicals in the brain? Or an issue of the spirit (not sure if spirit is the right word)?

Is treatment with western medicine (i.e. antidepressants/mood stabilizers, talk therapy) condemned or accepted?

Is there stigma surrounding these illnesses like in the western culture?

Is depression thought of an extreme form of dukkha or similar?

How are hypomania/major depressive episodes handled?

I hope this makes sense, thanks :)

  • I'd find it difficult to explain what "stigma" means. How can people tell whether there is or isn't stigma?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 10:17
  • @ChrisW for example, I know that if a person in my friend group had depression and/ or bipolar disorder, the rest of the group would treat them differently because of it even if it had no effect on day to day life because this person was medicated. The friends would still feel that they have to be "careful" around them
    – beacofell
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 1:33

4 Answers 4


Bipolar and depression are both very serious mental illnesses and should be treated accordingly. Too often dharma teachers who are unprepared try to resolve what are true clinical issues. As I was once told "sometimes meditation is the answer sometimes medication is the answer." That of course does not mean that practice can not help with these problems but the appropriate tools should be used at the appropriate time and instance.


Although the term 'mental illness' is generally used in the world, imbalances of chemicals or neural structures in the brain are really forms of physical illness. It has been said:

In the time of the Buddha, "mental disease" referred to an illness of view or desire. These days, however, it refers to ordinary mental ailments that have their base in the body and are mixed up with physical disease.

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa

Therefore, the Buddhist approach would be to treat physical (brain) illness with physical medicine, which is why Buddhist meditation is generally not recommended for strong forms of these illnesses.

However, visiting, talking to & socialising with monks & nuns who are highly developed in loving-kindness (metta) can help people with such illnesses feel more emotionally secure, loved & balanced.

In other words, there is no stigma in Buddhism surrounding these illnesses. Buddhism teaches every component of the body & mind can be subjected to injury, disease &/or illness due to decay, natural imperfection & impermanence.

  • Thanks, this helped me understand the stigma portion of the question :)
    – beacofell
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 13:03
  • The sentence, "However, visiting, talking to etc.": is that statement based on theory, on practical experience, or on scripture?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 26, 2017 at 15:39

If we have mental illness, we go see a psychiatrist and take medication. It is like when we have a flu, we see a doctor, take medication and rest.


I take 10 mg of Buspirone and 25 mg of Citalopram daily.

  • I use methylated xanthines daily (coffee, tea and chocolate).
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 22:28
  • @xxxx It's an answer to the question (from personal experience), which asks "how do Buddhists handle illness?" -- this answer says that he takes medications.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:41
  • I get a little antsy whenever anyone supplies medical advice. I think it's dangerous and I don't think that's within the scope of this forum. I also don't think the answer addresses the question specifically regarding stigma, whether it is a form of dukkha, whether treatment is condoned by Buddhist scripture, or even the causal reasons of mental illness. I also think the question is looking for a Buddhist approach to hypermania and depressive episodes rather than a pharmacological one.
    – user698
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:55
  • I didn't read it as advice ("you should take this medication"); I read it as an answer ("I take this medication, Buddhists attitude is to take medication if they're prescribed it by a doctor"). I agree it shouldn't be taken as a prescription ("You should take Buspirone and Citalopram"). If you think that a Buddhist approach is "as opposed to" a pharmacological approach then perhaps you @xxxx should post that as a separate/competing answer. But I'd be inclined to condemn (as dangerous medical advice) an answer which seems to imply that you shouldn't take a prescription.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 22:51
  • 2
    IDK. The answer as it stands now just seems a non sequitir given the context of the question. Just my two cents.
    – user698
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 23:33

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