5 fundamental emotions can cause illness when they are out of balance.

The Chinese word NeiYin literally translates into internal causes of diseases, causes that are essentially emotional in nature. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls them internal because it considers that we are in some way masters of our emotions, since they depend on us much more than external factors.

As proof, the same external event can trigger a certain emotion in one person and a completely different emotion in another. Emotions represent changes in the mind in response to a very personal perception of messages and stimuli from the environment.

With each emotion his organ

Five fundamental emotions (described in more detail below) can cause illness when they are out of balance. In accordance with the Five Element Theory, each emotion is associated with an organ that it can particularly affect. Indeed, the MTC conceives the human being in a global way and does not make a separation between the body and the spirit. She considers that each organ plays not only a physical role, but also has mental, emotional and psychic functions.

  • Anger (Nu) is associated with the Liver.
  • Joy (Xi) is associated with the Heart.
  • Sadness (You) is associated with Lung.
  • Concerns (Si) are associated with Spleen / Pancreas.
  • Fear (Kong) is associated with Kidneys.

If our Organs are balanced, so will our emotions, and our thoughts will be fair and clear. On the other hand, if a pathology or an imbalance affects an organ, we risk to see the associated emotion to undergo the repercussions. For example, if a person accumulates too much Liver Heat because they consume a lot of hot Nature Foods such as spicy foods, red meats, fried foods and alcohol, they may become angry and irritable.

In fact, excessive heat in the Liver will cause an increase in Yang, which can trigger feelings of anger and irritation. In this case, no external emotional reason explains the appearance of these feelings: it is a problem of nutrition which creates a physical imbalance, which leads to an emotional imbalance. In such a case, it may be presumed that psychotherapy would not be of much benefit to that person.

On the other hand, in other situations, it may be important to deal with the psychological aspect. This is usually done through an energy approach – since emotions are a form of Energy, or Qi. For TCM, it is clear that emotions are memorized inside the body, most often without the knowledge of our consciousness. We therefore usually treat Energy without having to go through the conscious (unlike classical psychotherapy). This also explains why the puncture of a point can, for example, lead to inexplicable crying, but oh so liberating! During a psychotherapy, it may be beneficial to treat, in a complementary way, the Energy of the whole body.

Emotions that become pathological

If the imbalance of an organ can disturb emotions, the opposite is also true. TCM considers that experiencing emotions is normal and important, and that they are part of the normal sphere of mental activity. On the other hand, blocking the expression of an emotion, or on the contrary, living it with an excessive intensity or over an abnormally long period, risks unbalancing the Body that is associated with it and creating a physical pathology. In energetic terms, we speak of a disturbance in the circulation of Substances, in particular Qi. In the long run, this can also hinder the renewal and distribution of Essences and the correct expression of spirits.

For example, if a woman is mourning for her husband, it is normal for her to be sad and to cry. On the other hand, if after several years, she is still extremely sad and she cries at the slightest evocation of the image of this man, it is about an emotion lived on a too long period. Sadness being associated with Lung, it could cause asthma. On the other hand, the heart needing a “minimum” of joy, its associated emotion, it could be that the woman is having problems like heart palpitations.

The imbalance of one of the five “fundamental” emotions identified by TCM, or the disruption of their associated Body, can cause all kinds of physical or psychological problems that we present to you succinctly. Remember that emotions must be taken in their broad sense and include a set of related emotional states (which are summarized at the beginning of each section).


Anger also includes irritation, frustration, dissatisfaction, resentment, emotional repression, fury, rage, aggression, anger, impatience, exasperation, animosity, bitterness, resentment, humiliation, indignation, & c.

Whether exaggeratedly expressed or repressed, anger affects the liver. Expressed violently, it causes an abnormal rise of the Qi, causing syndromes called the rise of the Yang of the Liver or Fire of the Liver. These often cause headaches: headache and migraines, redness in the neck, red face, red eyes, feeling of warmth in the head, bitter taste in the mouth, dizziness and tinnitus.

On the other hand, pent up anger causes Stagnation of Liver Qi that may be accompanied by the following symptoms: abdominal bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea, irregular periods, premenstrual syndrome, cyclothymic status, frequent sighing, need for yawning or stretching, tightness of the chest, ball in the stomach or throat and even some depressive states. Indeed, in case of repressed anger or resentment, it often happens that the person does not feel his anger as such, but that it says rather depressed or tired. She will have difficulty organizing and planning, will lack regularity, be easily irritable, may hold offensive remarks towards her family, and finally have emotional responses disproportionate to the situations she lives.

In the long run, Stagnation of Liver Qi can lead to Stagnation of Liver Blood since Qi helps blood flow. This is particularly remarkable in women because their metabolism is very related to blood; it will be possible, among other things, to see various menstrual problems.


Excessive joy, in the pathological sense, also includes exaltation, frenzy, agitation, euphoria, excitement, extreme enthusiasm, and so on.

It is normal, and even desirable, to feel happy and happy. TCM considers that this emotion becomes excessive when people are over-excited (even if they like being in this state); think of people who live “hundred an hour”, who are in a constant state of mental stimulation or who are totally excited. It is said then that their Spirit can no longer concentrate.

TCM considers that a level of normal joy is reflected in serenity, joie de vivre, happiness and optimistic thought; like the discreet joy of the Taoist sage on his mountain … When the joy is excessive, it slows and disperses the Qi, and affects the Heart, its associated Organ. Here are the symptoms: feeling easily excited, talking a lot, being restless and nervous, having palpitations and insomnia.

In the opposite, the insufficient joy is like sadness. It may affect the lung and cause the opposite symptoms.


Emotions related to sadness are sorrow, grief, depression, remorse, melancholy, affliction, desolation, etc.

Sadness is a normal and essential reaction to the integration and acceptance of loss, separation or serious disappointment. It also allows us to recognize our attachment to people, situations or things lost. But a sadness lived over too long a period can become pathological: it diminishes or exhausts the Qi and attacks the Lung. The symptoms of the Void of the Lung are shortness of breath, fatigue, depressive states, a weak voice, incessant cries, and so on.


The worries include the following emotional states: anxiety, obsessive thoughts, persistent worries, intellectual overwork, feelings of helplessness, daydreaming, and so on.

Excess worries include excess thoughts, both of which are very common in our western society. Over-thinking is common among students or intellectually-minded people, and over-excitement is especially prevalent among people who have financial, family, social, and other problems. People who worry about everything, or who are worried about anything, often suffer from a weakness of the Spleen / Pancreas that predisposes them to be anxious. Conversely, having too much trouble knots and blocks the Qi, and affects that Body.

MTC considers that the Spleen / Pancreas houses the Thought that allows us to reflect, study, focus and memorize. If the Qi of Spleen / Pancreas is weak, it becomes difficult to analyze situations, manage information, solve problems or adapt to new ones. Reflection can turn into mental rumination or obsession, the person “takes refuge” in his head. Here are the main symptoms of an empty Spleen Qi / Pancreas: mental fatigue, rumination of thoughts, worries, difficulty falling asleep, loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, confused thoughts, physical fatigue, dizziness, loose stools, lack of appetite.

The fear

Fear includes anxiety, anguish, fear, fear, apprehension, phobias, etc.

Fear is beneficial when it helps us to react to danger, when it prevents us from taking actions that might prove perilous, or when it hinders actions that are too spontaneous. On the other hand, when it is too intense, it can paralyze us or create harmful fears; if it becomes chronic, it will cause anxiety or phobias. Fear causes Qi down and affects the Kidneys. In the same way, an empty Yin of Kidneys predisposes the person to feel anxious. Since Kidney Yin depletes with age, a phenomenon aggravated by menopause, it is not surprising that anxiety is more prevalent in the elderly and that many women feel anxious at the time of menopause. . Kidney Yin void manifestations are often concomitant with rising heat and heart failure: anxiety, insomnia, night sweats, hot flushes, palpitations, dry throat and mouth, etc. Let us also mention that the Kidneys control the lower sphincters; weakness of Qi at this level, consistent with fear, can cause urinary or anal incontinence.


Maciocia Giovanni.The practice of Chinese medicine , Éditions Satas, Belgium, 1999.

Maciocia Giovanni.The fundamental principles of Chinese medicine , Éditions Satas, Belgium, 1992.

Sionneau Philippe.Understanding and treating mental depression in Chinese medicine , Guy Trédaniel, France, 1999.

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