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Here's what I'm given to understand:

The Abhidhamma manual classifies all possible mental states of a human being into - various different kinds of Chittas and Chetasikas.

Here's what I want to know:

  • Are the mental states of (what is generally considered to be a) disorder, like say - Bipolar disorder, Autism etc. also considered and classified in this text?
  • Is there a way out of it? Is there anyway for someone who wants to help those in deeper suffering because of this. Meditation, medication, perspective, world view etc.
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I highly doubt you can find a one-to-one correspondence between modern psychiatric disorders and the classification of mental factors in Buddhist Abhidhamma. The two have completely unfamiliar zeitgeists or views of the world.

That said, I think you will find that many of the symptoms or more granular descriptions of the western psychiatric disorders are present or reflective of similar mental factors in the Abhidhamma. One thing you will not find in the latter is a classification of brain states or the physical mechanisms underlying many of the former. That is to say that western psychiatric disorders are - not entirely unwarranted - preoccupied with the workings of the brain as opposed to the workings of the mind. The two are not the same although with neural plasticity the two can lead to change in the other.

So, I think you will find that the efficacy of treating mental factors in Abhidhamma will be non-linear with treating western psychiatric disorders although they will have some effect on one another.

BTW, this is the canonical place where western psychiatric disorders are catalogued and described: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is important to note that although this is the de facto canonical catalogue of western psychiatry that many western psychiatrists themselves view this catalog as subjective and arbitrary and providing only superficial and unreliable classification of disorders.

Hope this helps!

  • I think western psychiatrists are interested in the brain because they'd like to understand (more than they do now about) why psychiatric medicines have whatever effects they have. Also so far as I know the DSM suggests diagnoses based on observed behaviours and subjective (self-reported) perceptions only: even if it were useful to know, I suppose that brain chemistry isn't easy to measure. – ChrisW Feb 13 at 10:01
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To answer this question one should have a deep understanding in Abhidhamma and also clinical, medicinal expertise. I must say first that I'm not an expert in none of these areas. I'll try to answer this question as much as possible according to my understanding. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Are the mental states of (what is generally considered to be a) disorder, like say - Bipolar disorder, Autism etc. also considered and classified in this text?

The short answer for this question is NO. But in Abhidhamma it has mentioned about ultimate truth. Each and every dhamma inside the world and outside the world are made of 82 numbers of very subtle substances called paramatta sacca. In the Great Book of Causal Relationships (Patthana Pakarana) it has mentioned how these elements interrelated and build phenomena. So if you have thorough understanding in Abhidhamma, you should be able to explain each and every phenomena. It's like if you have building blocks and you know how they can be connected and their output. Then you can explain how to build a house, train, bridge, etc... out of them.

In sentient beings in realms where all 5 aggregates (skandha) are available (pancavokara bhumi) name (nāma) and form (rūpa) are interrelated (each one dependent on the other). Most of the diseases are caused by diseased bundles of form (rūpa kalāpa). Since name and form are interrelated these diseased bundles of form may disturb the normal function of name. That's why someone gets unconsciousness when s/he met with an accident or when suffering from high fever. That's why someone lose their sight by exposing their eyes to UV radiation.

One can argue the other way around that name will affect form and leads to diseases. This is also true. That's why you get high levels of bad cholesterol (cholesterol is made of bundles of form) when you're suffering from stress (mental condition).

Is there a way out of it? Is there anyway for someone who wants to help those in deeper suffering because of this. Meditation, medication, perspective, world view etc.

There are four causes which produce form.

  1. Kamma (Actions)
  2. Citta (Consciousness)
  3. Utu (Heat)
  4. Ahara (nutriment/sustenance)

There are bundles of form in a body which are arisen with one (ekaja rūpa), two (dvija rūpa), three (tija rūpa), or four (catuja rūpa) causes above mentioned.

If the diseased bundles of form are caused by kamma, I suppose there is no cure for such diseases. Although it's not guaranteed, the only option is to try to mitigate the effect by doing as much as good deeds (kusala kamma) in this very life.

If the diseased bundles of form are caused by citta, I suppose meditation will help to cure such diseases. Counseling and maintaining a good mind always is beneficial.

If the diseased bundles of form are caused by utu, I suppose use of protectors to avoid expose to heat and use of ointments to recover diseased/damaged bundles of form will help to cure such diseases.

If the diseased bundles of form are caused by ahara, I suppose these diseases can be cured by medicines, physical exercises and changing diet.

To cure diseased dvija rūpa, tija rūpa, or catuja rūpa, a combination of above methods can be used.

Note: This is what I understood. I may be wrong but not Dhamma.

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