In Traditional Chinese medicine, the concept of the Seven Emotions or Qi Qing refer to joy, anger, worry and anxiety, sadness, fear and fright. They are all pyschological states which are reflections of the body’s reaction to objective events or circumstances.
Under normal conditions, the seven emotions generally do not cause disease. However, sudden, intense or prolonged stimulation of the emotions which lie outside the normal regulatory range of physiological body function will result in disturbances to the dynamics of qi, imbalance of yin-yang, blood and the five Zang organs. Chinese medicine considers them to be one of the major pathological factors resulting in endogenous (internal) diseases. They are also closely linked to Five Element Theory.
Chinese medicine theory holds that each of the seven emotions is directly related to a corresponding Zang organ, and intense disturbances in emotional states will lead to the onset of diseases relating to the organs. However, due to the complex nature of emotions and the fact that multiple emotional states can be involved in certain situations, it is possible that the Zang organs can be affected by more than one emotion.
The seven emotions and their effects on the qi movement of the five Zang organs can be classified as follows.
Under normal circumstances, joy can relax or relieve mental tension and stress, smoothing the circulation of qi and blood, thus calming the mind. However, excessive joy impairs the heart and slows the activity of heart-qi, causing it to become sluggish. Mild cases may present with palpitations, insomnia, mental confusion and forgetfulness. More serious cases manifest as mental disorders and mania.
Anger or rage will impair the Liver, causing qi to rise and move upwards adversely, with the blood following. This is commonly known as ‘Liver qi rising’. In such situations clinical manifestations include red face and eyes, headaches, dizziness, irritability and propensity to become angry. Bleeding due to adverse qi flow can also cause haematemisis and even unconsciuosness. Excessive anger can also cause transverse dysfunctional movement of liver qi resulting in gastric and abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating and diarrhoea.
Excessive worry causes the qi to become stagnated or blocked. This has a pathological effect on spleen qi resulting in consumption of heart-blood. This manifests as a feeling of oppression in the chest, dysphoria, insomnia, palpitations and poor memory.
Prolonged anxiety will directly impair the function of the spleen, causing spleen qi stagnation. This results in a failure of the spleen’s transformation and transportation functions. In turn this affects the digestive function of the stomach. Clinical manifestions include a poor apetite, abdominal distension, indigestion and loose stool or diarrhoea.
Sadness or Grief
This emotion causes the consumption of qi and is related to the lungs in Chinese medicine. This leads to a failure of the lungs in purifying, dispersing and descending. Symptoms related to sadness or grief include shortness of breath, reluctance to talk, oppression in the chest, listlessness and lack of spirit.
Sudden and excessive fear impairs the kidney and leads to the sinking of qi. Kidney qi becomes unconsolidated and undergoes a collapse. This can lead to urinary and fecal incontinence, soreness and weakness of the bones, and spermatorrhoea.
Sudden and intense fright impairs the heart leading to turbulence of heart qi and the unsettling of the house of the spirit or heart-mind. This will usually minfest as palpitations, restlessness, insomnia, susceptibility to fright and panic.
From the pattern of clincal manifestations, it is clear to see that the seven emotions are linked mainly to emotional disorders with accompanying physical symptoms. This serves to underscore the strength of the seven emotions, both positive and negative in the formation and treatment of disease. As much as negative and excessive emotions can cause diesease, positive emotional states can aid the healing and recovery process in patients.