Why suppressing emotions is bad? Harm of repressed emotions


We all have our own unique ways of coping with sadness and grief. For some, this is a way to avoid emotions and not show pain. But do you know what suppressing your emotions can do to you? You have probably already heard that repressed emotions are bad for your physical and mental health. Mental damage is somewhat easier to predict. However, recent scientific research has shown that not all coping mechanisms are the same, and suppressing our emotions can have a range of negative physical effects as well as psychological effects.

Pain suppression can lead to inflammation in the body

A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine examined a group of nearly 100 people, all of whom had recently lost a spouse. The researchers interviewed participants to find out how people deal with this pain and what types of behaviors they exhibit (ranking them on a scale of 1 to 7).

The inflammation link was determined by examining blood samples taken from the participants. The researchers found that people who coped with pain by avoiding their emotions, especially by not expressing them freely, had higher blood levels of cytokines, which are markers of inflammation.

Experiencing emotions may be more beneficial in the long run

While it’s sometimes tempting to ignore what upsets or hurts us, this research suggests that accepting our emotions and letting them flow over time may be healthier for our mental and physical well-being. Research also shows that not all coping strategies are the same. According to researchers, it may be more important than we think to allow emotions to flow freely after a loss or similar major emotional event.

On top of that, we know that inflammation can affect our mental health and even be a major cause of depression or anxiety. That’s why it’s important to make sure we don’t increase our anxiety and mental stress. If we are struggling with sadness or grief, we must find a way to live our emotions through various strategies.

Why should we stop suppressing our emotions?

How many times have you heard this phrase while trying to deal with painful feelings? “Stop being so sensitive. If necessary, drop it and move on.” Having others tell you to bury your pain in your heart makes you question yourself and the messages your body is trying to send you. Just think about how many times today you’ve tried to ward off painful emotions by browsing social media or diving into Netflix… In a world full of distractions and misinterpretations of emotions, it’s not hard to see why most people are so afraid to feel.

Most of us have been taught to ignore, deny and avoid our emotions. However, while it may sound like a cliché, emotions help us heal. Remember that when we suppress and criticize ourselves for the emotions we experience, including pain and grief, we may pay with our health.

1. Avoiding Emotions Makes Them Stronger

So it’s useless to run! A University of Texas study found that by avoiding our emotions, we actually make them stronger. This can cause numerous health problems, including physical and mental illness.

2. Creates confusion

When you suppress your emotions, your confusion intensifies and you hurt your body deeply. Our emotions are our body’s way of activating us. On a very primitive level, our body is always trying to keep us safe. Our primitive ancestors learned to listen to their inner voice because it protected them from a possible attack. Although today we cannot run away from wild animals that may attack us, responding to emotion and processing it can protect us from both physical and mental dangers. Of course, in today’s world it’s hard to hear what our body is trying to tell us. However, we must not forget that by ignoring these messages, we may suffer even more.

3. Physical stress; can lead to serious illnesses such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders

Research shows that suppression of emotions is associated with higher rates of heart disease, as well as autoimmune disease, ulcers, IBS, and gastrointestinal complications. Whether you are experiencing anger, sadness, grief, or frustration, tossing those emotions aside is actually putting physical stress on your body. Scientific studies show that suppression of emotions is associated with high levels of cortisol, and cortisol leads to reduced immunity, toxic thinking. Over time, untreated or unacknowledged stress can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, memory problems, anxiety, and depression.

4. It can hurt relationships

People who regularly refuse to confront their feelings honestly can also have great difficulty in social relationships. They are less aware of the signals they send to others and tend to be more reactive. They disconnect from themselves, which can lead to feelings of isolation and negatively affect relationships.

5. Gets stuck in the fight-or-flight response.

You can imagine that a person who suppresses their emotions can be distant, cold, or low-energy. But it may not look like this in all scenarios. Conversely, avoiding a deeper understanding of our emotions and their causes can cause us to get stuck in the fight-or-flight response.

The event causes an emotional response, we can suddenly fixate on everything negative and convince ourselves that the worst scenario will happen. Felt fear triggers the body’s response to stress and pushes us into a state of intense arousal. As a result, cortisol levels rise, triggering the production of a chemical called norepinephrine, which increases heart rate and blood pressure. We are so preoccupied with fear that we do not take the time to fully understand what prompts us to react in this way. Thus, it becomes more difficult for us to correctly interpret the stressor.

How can we develop a healthier relationship with our emotions?

As human beings, we all know that listening to our emotions, especially complex ones like pain, can be frightening. In fact, we have spent most of our lives avoiding them. But it’s really unhealthy. Instead, we can try to acquire a few skills recommended by experts. Remember that the goal is to go slowly.

  • Inhale: Take a moment to notice how you feel throughout the day. Are you nervous? If so, where in your body do you feel it? Are you breathing deeply or shallowly? How do you feel after a few deep breaths? This can help you identify where emotions are getting stuck in your body. You can then activate the vagus nerve by diaphragmatic breathing (breathe deeply with your belly sticking out). This nerve is responsible for regulating emotions and massages the intensity of our emotions.
  • Identify one emotion at a time: The amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, gets stuck in an irrational thought process when you try to suppress your emotions. When you identify what’s bothering you (I’m stressed right now), your frontal lobe starts to work. This area of ​​the brain helps you solve problems by validating your experiences, which can help you start feeling better.
  • Be kind to yourself: When we are kind to ourselves, we can stop the flow of cortisol and regulate our emotions in a healthy way. Self-compassion can be a powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin, a calming hormone. So, on the path to accepting your feelings, talk to yourself the same way you would talk to a child or a dear friend.

Sources: mindbodygreen, webmd

You may be interested in: Emotional awareness: recognizing emotions and recognizing their underlying needs.

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