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  • Writer's pictureRachel Brandwene, LCSW

The Negative Effects of Suppressing Your Emotions

Suppressing your emotions can have serious effects on your physical and mental health. While it might be tempting to ignore or push away difficult emotions, suppressing your feelings can take a toll on your nervous system and overall well-being. Here’s what you need to know about how suppressing your emotions impacts your body, plus some helpful tips on how to manage difficult feelings without compromising your mental health.


Why We Suppress Emotions-

Many people feel an overwhelming urge to suppress their emotions as soon as they start feeling them. Whether it’s embarrassment, sadness, anxiety, or even anger – the instinct is to stuff those feelings down before anyone notices them. In fact, many of us were taught from a young age that expressing certain feelings (especially “negative” ones) was wrong or “bad” behavior. This social conditioning encourages us to try and control our emotional responses rather than exploring them with curiosity.


How Suppressing Emotions Affects Your Nervous System-

Our bodies respond differently when we suppress our emotions. The same neural pathways in our brain become activated whether we express or repress an emotion. However, suppressing an emotion creates an additional level of effort in the body because we’re actively attempting to keep those feelings under wraps. When this happens repeatedly over time, it causes a build-up of stress hormones like cortisol which can negatively affect our physical and psychological health. Repressing emotions also inhibits communication between different parts of the brain which disrupts important cognitive functions like decision-making and problem-solving skills.



Managing Difficult Emotions-

Although it may be hard at first, learning how to deal with challenging emotions in healthy ways is essential for maintaining balance in both body and mind. A great way to begin is by finding an outlet for releasing stress and negative energy – such as exercise, art therapy, meditation or journaling – instead of trying to bury them deep inside where they can fester over time. It’s also helpful to develop self-awareness skills so that you can recognize triggers for your own difficult feelings and practice better emotional regulation techniques (like breath work). Lastly, talk therapy is another effective way of working through tough feelings and developing healthier ways of responding instead of avoiding them altogether.


Even though it can feel unnatural at first, understanding why we sometimes struggle with managing our own emotions allows us to take back control over our lives and make positive changes that benefit our physical health and mental wellbeing in the long run.


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