Previously Ottawa Holistic Wellness
Can Hives Be Caused By Stress and Trauma?

Can Hives Be Caused By Stress and Trauma?

I have worked as a Natural Allergist now since 2004, and in that time many people have come to me seeking relief from hives and rashes. Most have been told that their hives are “idiopathic”. In doctor speak that simply means “We have no idea what is causing this problem..”!

I can test these clients for allergens, whether food, environment, heat, cold or electromagnetic frequencies. However, in the case of chronic hives, the answer most often is not allergies, it is stress and trauma that the body is holding on to.

The client may appear to be reacting to something they eat or touch, but when asked they will say that one day it is okay… another it will create a considerable reaction.. this is a clear indication to me that the issue is not with the food or thing they touch, but comes with an internal, emotional response.

One example that comes to mind is a guy who was experiencing hives when he went in the sun. We tracked the reaction down to the day, 16 years previously, when his son drowned in the sea in the Caribbean.. this naturally caused a massive amount of emotional trauma, which the body interpreted as being to do with the heat and the sunshine on his skin.

It is well documented that psychological stress is linked with chronic idiopathic urticaria (hives) and other skin complaints including rashes, psoriasis, rosacea.

Stress, whether long-term or acute, triggers reactivity in the autonomic nervous system and a state of hyperarousal in the sympathetic nervous system. This may manifest as hives.

In the case of PTSD following injuries, the hives can appear at the site of that injury. E.g. hives were affecting the area of the body where the person had been stabbed years previously.

Put plainly, the body’s immune system has become over-reactive. It detects the stress and mobilises histamine (inflammation) and the immune system to address the perceived threat. Unfortunately, stress cannot be dealt with by our immune system and histamine, there is no invading pathogen to attack, so an autoimmune reaction occurs – the body attacks its tissues, causing the skin reactions.

Another way to view this is that the body has developed an allergic reaction to the stress and trauma.

What can you do about it?

The first step is to acknowledge that emotions, traumas and stress can be a part of actual physical symptoms in any part of the body. I find this can be the most challenging step for many clients.

Lifestyle and relationship stress

If you follow the guidelines, you will know that firstly to address any lifestyle factors, reduce any current stress in your life. This may mean looking at your job and making plans to change it, or addressing issues in your relationships, and making sure to create work/life balance.

For some the act of planning to change their job, even if not immediately, provides some relief – there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the stress is reduced.

Psychotherapy, counselling and coaching can be helpful to determine where the stress lies and to develop strategies for alleviating that stress.

Old traumas

We all hold emotions in our bodies. To deal with these, we need to work with the conscious mind, as above, but also release the trauma from our physical body. This can be done in many ways, some of which are as follows:

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

NLP works with your unconscious and the memories that your psyche has organised according to your individual “timeline.” It addresses memories from your life and genetic memories – events experienced by your ancestors.

Craniosacral therapy and cranial osteopathy

Craniosacral therapy and cranial osteopathy work with the subtle structures of the body, and with the energy and emotions. A goods therapist will put their hands on and be able to feel the body ‘shaking inside’ with unreleased trauma. They use gentle techniques to assist the release of these traumas from the tissues.

Somatic breath work

This modality is designed to rebalance the body’s systems and to release trauma. It can be practised at home once you have the techniques.

Energy healing

There are many types of energy healing, from Reiki and Chakra Balancing to Pranic healing, Angel healing and the Laying on of Hands practised by some religions.

The whole purpose of any energy work is to facilitate the release of emotions and to bring balance and harmony for the entire person. It has been practised by many cultures for many centuries.

NAET (TM) treatments

NAET TM works to release the body’s association between allergens and emotions. They can also be used to target traumatic events specifically and to release the associated emotions held in the body and to release those emotions.

In conclusion

Take the time to consider whether your hives and rashes may be due to emotional traumas or stress. Try to be honest with yourself. One way that we survive trauma is to bury it deep inside and avoid looking at it. Facing it can be painful, but rewarding, and can be the start of a whole new you.

If you think that stress or trauma may be a part of the cause of your hives, book a free health coach assessment with me to discuss the best approach for you.


This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do have hives? Were your hives aggravated by stress? Let us know in the comments below.