I recently read a headline that shocked me. According to the guardian newspaper [https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/06/hospital-admissions-for-teenage-girls-who-self-harm-nearly-double ] the number of under 17s reported to GPs for self harm has increased by 68% in 3 years. My eldest daughter is now nearly 12 and about to go through puberty and adolescence, the prospect of which makes me uneasy not least when I think of the pressures our kids are under these days. Of course the stresses that build up and culminate in the need to self harm can be complex and multi factored and there is probably no one solution to fit everyone. That said because of the nature of my job I can’t help but see a headline like this and ruminate on the way stress is described and treated in Chinese medicine.
One of the key differences in Asian thought is the lack of separation between mind and body. The mind is literally seen as being embedded in the body, specifically in the blood and by extension in the muscles [muscles are basically blood in East Asian thought].This is not so unusual an idea, if you stop to think about it. As soon as you get stressed, or irritated, or excited or scared somewhere some part of your muscular system will tighten up; maybe skeletal muscles of the shoulder and neck or, you diaphragm or stomach muscles [‘butterflies’] even smooth muscles around the organs eg your breathing and digestion can be affected.
Treatment is effectively to try to put the body/mind into a more relaxed state, to soften congestion and let the blood and the mind flow more easily. Needles are used to trigger this through light painless [often largely non inserted] stimulation, though also heat therapy, herbs and even occasionally controlled microbleeding can play a part. I’m not suggesting that acupuncture is necessarily always the only solution to the stresses that our teenagers face today. These will often require multifaceted approaches, East Asian medicine can’t remove many of the external causes, however it can provide a less destructive means of relieving the stresses that build up in the body whatever your age and situation.