Two cases are described in a report by Xu (1994). The first involved a 22 year-old man who sought treatment for lumbago and experienced the onset of adverse effects while undertaking self-teaching of the Wu Qin Xi form of Qigong. He experienced anxiety, physical pain, psychosis and suicidal thoughts. Some relief was experienced as a result of treatment by a Qigong master, but symptoms recurred. These included hearing the “voices of evil spirits”, uncontrollable behaviour and attempted suicide. Some months later he developed similar symptoms when his family would not allow him to do his Qigong exercises. He attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric institution. After ECT treatment he was discharged and was subsequently stable. The second case involved a 44 year old male who developed delusional psychosis after practicing He Xiang Zhuang (a form of Qigong) for a cervical disorder.

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Sham meditation involves designing control strategies that overtly resemble the intervention, but which do not actually trigger the effects purported to be specifically associated with meditation.

Sham techniques are used in research when the researcher wishes to examine the specific effects a meditation technique may elicit, while controlling for the non-specific effects.

Sham meditation procedures necessarily involve deception of participants and the ethicality of this in clinical trials is open to dispute. Further, this kind of strategy can be logistically challenging and there is always a risk that the deception might be uncovered, thereby immediately invalidating the entire study.

Ramesh Manocha.

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