What Are The Five Emotions?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emotions are considered a major internal causes of disease. Emotional activity is seen as a normal, internal, physiological response to stimuli from the external environment. If you are very upset or anxious, and this continues for a long period we believe that this will have a physical impact on your body.

The five yin-organs of the human body produce five kinds of essential qi, which bring forth joy, anger, grief, pensiveness/worry, and fear” as stated in Suwen (The book of plain questions).

Traditional Chinese medicine believes that certain organs are related to emotional activities, for example the heart is related to joy, the liver to anger, the spleen to pensiveness, the lungs to grief and the kidneys to fear. 

When emotions become so powerful that they become uncontrollable and overwhelm a person, then they can cause injury to the internal organs and open the way for disease. It is not the intensity as much as the prolonged duration or an extreme emotion, which may cause damage. 

While Western physicians tend to stress the psychological aspects of ailments, the pathological damage to the internal organs is often missed. In Chinese Medicine excess emotional activity can potentially cause severe imbalances, affecting the flow of blood, blocking qi in the meridians and impairing vital organ functions. 

Understanding and treating the impact of these emotions is where a TCM practitioner can be of most help, especially if there is a chance of early intervetion.

The Five Emotions:


"When one is excessively joyful, the spirit scatters and can no longer be stored," states the Lingshu However, in TCM, joy refers to a states of agitation or overexcitement, rather than the more passive notion of deep contentment. The organ most affected is the heart.


Anger, as described by TCM, covers the full range of associated emotions including resentment, irritability, and frustration. An excess of rich blood makes one prone to anger. Anger will thus affect the liver, resulting in stagnation of liver qi. 


"When one feels grief, the qi is blocked and does not move." Grief injures the lungs, which control qi through breathing. Common symptoms of extreme anxiety are retention of breath, shallow, and irregular breathing. The shortage of breath experienced during periods of grief is common to everyone. Grief can also injure the lungs' coupled organ, the large intestine.


In TCM, pensiveness or concentration is considered to be the result of thinking too much or excessive mental and intellectual stimulation. Any activity that involves a lot of mental effort will run the risk of causing disharmony. The organ most directly at risk is the spleen. 


Fear is a normal and adaptive human emotion. But when it becomes chronic and when the perceived cause of the fear cannot be directly addressed, then this is likely to lead to disharmony. The organs most at risk are the kidneys. 

Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an acupuncture treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.  

These articles are not intented to diagnose, treat or cure any conditions. Excerpts from the original article in Shennong.

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