The Emotions & TCM

Understanding the connection of the 5 major organ-emotion pairings is key to unlocking the healing potential of TCM. See below for the traditional Chinese medicine connection and imbalance between organs and emotions and how they contribute to mental and physical health issues.


Liver (Gall bladder)

In TCM, the liver is associated with anger, depression, and the below physical symptoms:

  • Function: Involved in the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body; regulates bile secretion and stores blood; is connected with the tendons, nails, and eyes

  • Emotions: Anger, resentment, frustration, irritability, bitterness, and "flying off the handle"

  • Symptoms of imbalance: Breast distension, menstrual pain, headache, irritability, inappropriate anger, dizziness, dry, red eyes, and other eye conditions, and tendonitis

Spleen (Stomach/ Pancreas)

In TCM, the spleen is linked to the following emotions and ailments:

  • Function: Food digestion and nutrient absorption, helping in the formation of blood and energy and keeping blood in the blood vessels; connected with the muscles, mouth, and lips; also involved in thinking, studying, and memory

  • Emotions: Excessive mental work such as worry, dwelling, or focusing too much on a particular topic

  • Symptoms of imbalance: Tiredness, loss of appetite, mucus discharge, poor digestion, abdominal distension, loose stools, diarrhea, weak muscles, pale lips, bruising, excess menstrual blood flow, and other bleeding disorders

Lung (Large Intestine)

In TCM, this organ is believed to be connected to grief and the following conditions:

  • Function: Respiration brings energy from the air and helps to distribute it throughout the body; they work with the kidney to regulate water metabolism; they are important in the immune system and for resistance to viruses and bacteria; they regulate sweat glands and body hair and provide moisture to the skin

  • Emotions: Grief, sadness, and detachment

  • Symptoms of imbalance: Shortness of breath and shallow breathing, sweating, fatigue, cough, frequent cold and flu, allergies, asthma, and other lung conditions, dry skin, depression, and excessive crying

Heart (Small intestine)

In TCM, this organ is linked with joy but the imbalance of joy is expressed as either too much (agitation or restlessness) or too little (depression). Below, are the mental and physical ailments linked with the heart:

  • Function: Regulates the blood circulation and blood vessels; responsible for even and regular pulse and influences vitality and spirit; connected with the tongue, complexion, and arteries

  • Emotions: Lack of enthusiasm and vitality, mental restlessness, depression, insomnia, and despair, excessive joy/over excitement

  • Symptoms of imbalance: Insomnia, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, excessive dreaming, poor long-term memory, and psychological disorders


In TCM, the kidney is related to fear, which can manifest as chronic fear or anxiety when qi out of balance, as well as result in:

  • Function: Key organs for sustaining life; responsible for reproduction, growth and development, and maturation; involved with the lungs in water metabolism and respiration; connected with bones, teeth, ears, and head hair

  • Emotions: Fearful, weak willpower, insecure, aloof, and isolated

  • Symptoms of imbalance: Frequent urination, urinary incontinence, night sweats, dry mouth, poor short-term memory, low back pain, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, other ear conditions, premature grey hair, hair loss, and osteoporosis



An excess of joy affects the heart and refers to the states of agitation or over excitement, rather than the more passive notion of deep contentment.

It may cause:

  • Heart palpitations

  • Insomnia

  • Poor concentration, unclear thinking & poor memory

  • Agitation

  • Mania

  • Heart Attack


Anger leads to frustration, affecting the liver qi to stagnate, causing it to rise and can potentially causing problems with the stomach and the spleen

It may cause:

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Blurry vision

  • High blood pressure

  • Stroke

  • Thirst

  • Internal wind- seizure

  • Painful menstruation, PMS

  • Shortness of breath

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Red blotches on the front of the neck

Worry/ Overthinking

Worry stagnates or knots the Qi and depletes blood, it affects the digestive system and can cause digestive system disorders.

It may cause:

  • Digestive issues such as IBS, bloating or gas

  • Fatigue

  • Lethargy

  • Inability to concentrate

If it has progressed for an extended period of time it may also cause:

  • Insomnia

  • Palpitations

  • Dizziness

  • Forgetfulness

  • Excessive dreams


Unresolved grief which becomes chronic affects the lungs.

It may cause:

  • Asthma

  • A chronic cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Frequent colds and flu

Anxiety and sorrow also affect the lungs and when chronic may cause:

  • Retention of breath

  • Shallow and irregular breathing.

  • Anxiety also injures the lung’s coupled organ which is the large intestine.

  • Anxiety or worry, related to the Spleen, depletes this organ’s Qi, potentially affecting the digestive process.

  • Sadness affects both the Lung, to which it is related, and the Heart. Sadness also depletes Qi.


Fright primarily affects the heart. If it’s felt for the prolonged period, it moves to the kidneys and then becomes fear.

It may cause:

  • Heart palpitations

  • Poor concentration and memory

  • Waking up suddenly at 5 am

  • Indecisiveness and confusion


It affects the kidneys, when fear is chronic and does not get address it can cause a disharmony.

It may cause:

  • Involuntary urination (mainly in children)

  • Back issues

  • Menstrual disorders

  • Sexual disorders


- Meditation, in particular the inner smile meditation

- Qi Gong

- Journal- write out your emotions and how you are feeling

- Talk about how you are feeling

- Get out in nature

- Reiki, crystal healing or other energy healing modalities

- Seek guidance from a professional such as chinese medicine practitioner, naturopath, herbalist etc

- Aromatherapy (Find the ones that I recommend here)