Humans are emotional beings, yet many of us tend to suppress our emotions. This is especially true for “negative” ones such as anger, fear, and sadness.
We say, “I’m fine” or “Everything’s alright” when it’s actually the opposite. We have gotten better at bottling up emotions, even though they help us thrive, survive, and avoid danger.
One main reason is that expressing emotions is viewed as a sign of weakness. We usually praise being strong and stoic while frown upon being vulnerable. We were taught and told to “suck it up” or “get over it”, as well as apologize for making others feel uncomfortable when we show our emotions.
Here are the effects of emotional suppression and the ways to regulate them healthily. Also, you’ll find out how mental therapy can help you in this.
What does emotional suppression mean?
Emotional suppression, in a nutshell, refers to pushing away overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It is a form of emotional regulation strategy that involves holding back showing any outward signs of what you’re feeling inside.
Emotional suppression happens when you consciously or deliberately avoid your feelings because you don’t know how to deal with them.
This can lead to the use of numbing tactics like watching TV, eating, drinking, and scrolling on the phone. Pretending everything’s fine even when you’re upset is one example of emotional suppression. You, for instance, might do this at your workplace when you’re mad at a colleague, but still have to work together to get a project done.
Online therapy can be beneficial in managing emotions, so you don’t have to constantly bury them.
What are the effects of emotional suppression?
We all suppress emotions from time to time. In general, doing it occasionally won’t cause any problems, provided that you process or work through them. This, however, can be an issue when you constantly avoid or hide your feelings.
Below are some effects of emotional suppression:
Health issues and risk of early death
Bottling up emotions negatively affects both your physical and mental health. In fact, a 12-year study published in 2013 suggests a connection between emotional suppression and risk of premature death. Research showed that people who suppress emotions have more than 30% increased chance of early death from all causes. Their risk of being diagnosed with cancer also rises by 70%.
One potential reason for this is that consistently hiding or avoiding feelings can increase stress levels. Too much or unmanaged stress is known to contribute to several health issues like sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems.
Stress can also manifest itself in a range of physical symptoms like headaches, migraines, and stomach problems (bloating, slow digestion, ulcers).
Emotion buildup or stronger negative emotions
Suppressing emotions or burying them doesn’t necessarily make them go away. Holding them back can actually make them stronger, according to a study from the University of Texas.
Buried emotions can leak out and make you more aggressive. It is also likely that you’ll have emotional outbursts as your body’s way of releasing all your bottled-up emotions.
If you, for instance, constantly hold back your anger instead of expressing it, it will continue to build up until you can no longer hold it back. The worst part is you might blow up or direct your anger to situations or people who have nothing to do with what made you angry in the first place.
When you push some emotions aside, the next healthy approach is to release or process them. Trying to be positive all the time is not the solution.
If you always hide your emotions, you may eventually become unaware or unbothered by them. Unfortunately, unresolved feelings can resurface in the future with increased intensity.
Constantly bottling up emotions can then become a habit without you realizing it. When this happens, you may lose touch with your own feelings or not be able to completely experience all of your emotions. It’s called emotional numbness.
If you, for example, always hold back your tears, you may struggle to cry even if you have a perfectly good reason to.
Communication and relationship problems
When you constantly insist you’re fine when it’s obviously the opposite, your loved ones or the people who know you may become confused and frustrated. They might feel betrayed or hurt that you don’t trust them and they might also start losing trust in you.
Your loved ones, furthermore, might feel like they don’t know who you really are. This can then put a strain on the relationship.
Hiding or bottling up emotions can also inhibit conflict resolution. As you don’t show what you really feel, you block clear communication and don’t allow others to get to know you. These unacknowledged emotions may also make you resentful and trigger conflicts.
It is, moreover, likely that you may avoid people or situations that can provoke certain feelings, causing you to lose valuable relationships.
Developing a healthy relationship with your emotions
Coping with intense emotions can be a challenge. Here are a few strategies for regulating your emotions or developing a healthy relationship with them.
Mindfulness is all about being present in and aware of the moment. It helps you acknowledge your feelings without judgment, instead of responding to them with avoidance. It enables you to sit with your emotions not just to understand them, but to also fully experience them.
As mindfulness fosters deeper understanding, it helps you accept the existence of your emotions, process them, and let them go.
Share and express your feelings
As previously mentioned, burying uncomfortable feelings won’t make them stop or go away. The right approach is to share and express your feelings respectfully. Instead of pretending everything’s fine or just shutting down, explain why and how you are feeling.
This can help sort out your thoughts and talk through your circumstance in a way that leads to a clearer understanding acoording to cnns.
Talk to others
As we don’t always get the chance to express our emotions, it can be beneficial to talk about them. Sharing or venting to trusted friends or considering online therapy can take some of your stress or help you process difficult and overwhelming emotions.
You can also keep a journal of your emotions, thoughts, and feelings to understand them better, as well as gain control.
Take care of yourself
Have you noticed how much better you feel after exercising, eating a nutritious meal, or having a good night’s sleep? There is a strong link between your mind and body, which is why taking care of your physical needs helps you feel better inside too.
Self-care activities can also be beneficial in relieving stress and lifting your mood. The same is also true for practicing gratitude, forgiveness, and self-compassion.
Seek professional help or consider online therapy
Do you have trouble regulating or expressing your emotions? Talk to a therapist or mental health professional. They can help you identify your reasons for bottling up emotions and develop healthy strategies for dealing with them.
It is beneficial to take online therapy at Calmerry, especially if you want to get professional help from the comfort of your own home.
Online therapy can:
- Teach you how to deal with overwhelming emotions and feelings and express them
- Provide a safe space to validate and get in touch with your emotions
- Provide effective conflict resolution skills
- Help you address mental health issues like anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, depression, etc.
Don’t let your feelings and emotions go unresolved. If you find it difficult to deal with intense or overwhelming emotions, professional guidance is always available.
Therapists can help you express your emotions in healthy ways and give you the right tools to communicate your thoughts and feelings more clearly and openly.