Tag Archives: stress

Stress and Self Harm

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.

example case for the treatment of eczema

Case example: allergic skin reactions

The patient was a female in her 20s presenting with the following complaints:

  • Allergic reactions triggered by foods, environmental factors, etc. leading to:
    • Red inflamed skin, itchy, dry, bumpy
    • Swollen face, breathing problems
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, intolerance to many kinds of foods
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches, neck and shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Occasional difficulty urinating, irregular or loose bowels

Prior to treatment the skin flares were frequent and could lead to steroids being used to calm the outbreak.

Treatment began January 2017 with beginning of improvement after about a month and continued improvement so that by 2-3 months skin was much clearer and by the summer skin was much better and use of steroids only rarely if at all needed. The following images represent a change in the condition of the skin over this period of treatment.

Before treatment
















After treatment


In addition to improvements in the skin there have been  improvements in digestion, less bloating and pain, improved ability to tolerate a much wider range of foods. There is less fatigue, sleep is better, headaches and neck pain is better.

Treatment began with acupuncture and then herbal formulas were added, sometimes as granules and sometimes as ground bulk herbs to be boiled up.

At the time of writing we still treat periodically and there have been some minor relapses but overall improvements have held.