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Anxiety and the 5 Elements

As we discussed in the The Cause of Disease from a Chinese Medicine Perspective, emotions are an internal disease. Within 5 Element Acupuncture, each element is associated with a particular emotion in which a person may have difficulties. A person's constitutional type may also affect how one may experience anxiety. Below you will see how anxiety may show up in each of the elements.

Fire Type: The fire element is associated with joy and sadness. A person experiencing a fire type anxiety may feel palpitations. They may also appear flustered. "They will be restless and fidgety. They tend to move in rapid movements."

Metal Type: The metal element is associated with grief and sadness. When experiencing anxiety, they are usually affected by a loss and will be prone to crying. "This anxiety is often about spiritual matters, the meaning of life and existential suffering." They will often feel their anxiety along with breathlessness.

Water Type: The water element is associated with fear. A person suffering from anxiety in regards to the water may appear scared and have a look of panic in their eyes. "This anxiety is usually about life situations; the person is deeply pessimistic, and the anxiety derives from such pessimism." Water element anxiety is also related to feelings of having enough resources such as money, energy, and/or shelter.

Earth Type: The earth element is associated with worry and pensiveness.

The earth types are prone to having thoughts go 'round in circles' or have 'mental arguments.' Their thoughts may even become obsessive. "Earth-type anxiety may also be related to nurturing issue such as being overprotective towards one's children, ignoring one's own needs and putting the needs of others first."

Wood Type: The wood type is associated with the emotion of anger however they also worry. The wood types are very goal oriented so may be prone to being a perfectionist and may even look a little tense. "Their anxiety derives from high standards they set for themselves and it is therefore related to a feeling of not achieving what one has set out to achieve."


Maciocia, G. (2009). The psyche in Chinese medicine: Treatment of emotional and mental disharmonies with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

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