Can Emotions Impact Physical Health?

Happy beach ball on beach

Have you ever felt "sick to your stomach" after hearing bad news or gotten so angry that you felt your blood pressure rise? Emotions can affect your physical health in a variety of ways, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theorizes that each emotion will have a predictable impact on the body.


After reading our page acupuncture for stress, you know that emotions create imbalances when they're extreme or not expressed properly, and you learned that TCM looks at the body's organ systems differently in our last blog post. Now let's combine the two concepts to see how specific emotions affect each system:

  • Worry: Overthinking weakens and "knots" the Spleen, leading to upsets in digestion and energy. Real-life examples that you've probably experienced are feeling nauseated before a big presentation, having loose stool after a long period of stress, or feeling physically drained from non-stop mind-racing.
  • Anger: Everything from irritation to stress to frustration to rage falls on the anger spectrum, and all of these emotions influence the Liver, causing stagnation, like a traffic jam on a highway. Symptoms can range from frequent sighing (to let out the pent-up energy), discomfort in the rib cage, waking between 1 and 3, and issues in other organs that are affected by the Liver, for instance the digestive and respiratory systems. 
  • Fear: Have you ever seen a movie where someone got so scared that they couldn't help but pee on themselves? (Maybe you've seen this in real life!) Fear drains the Kidneys, and one of their jobs is to influence urination. 
  • Grief: Sadness depletes the Lungs, such as when someone sobs to the point of not being able to catch a full breath. 
  • Joy: Extreme happiness affects the Heart, and while it may seem like someone could never get too much joy, TCM  advocates balance in this emotion as well. Think of someone who had such a happy shock that he had a heart attack, or someone who is excessively excited to the point of mania.
happy is healthy over beach

Within reason :)

So, what does all this mean? In the words of the now-famous Disney song, "Let it go." If you've been holding onto a grudge, letting the hamster wheel in your brain spin out of control, or giving in to an irrational fear, find a way to overcome that detrimental emotion before it causes more serious health issues. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can help, and therapies like meditation, yoga, and Qi Gong work wonders as well. Of course, we always recommend speaking with a counselor when an emotion is overwhelming (or sometimes even when it's not). Recovering from an emotional wound takes time - possibly much longer than overcoming a physical trauma - and requires serious dedication.


Wherever you are in your emotional state right now, make a commitment to pursue balance. Evaluate where you might need to improve so you can head off unhealthy outbursts in the future and protect your physical health. We recommend making a list of activities that you know will bring you to a place a peace and creating a daily "happiness practice" that sets you up for emotional stability no matter what comes your way. Life is a roller coaster of ups and downs but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the ride!

Kathleen Ellerie is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.