Suppressing emotions is something that all of us, at some level, are accustomed to doing.
It could be for any number of reasons – it shows weakness, gives us a sense of control or quite simply, we feel nobody would understand or care. While all of these reasons are completely valid and understandable, many of us do not realise the potential harm we can do to our bodies when we are suppressing emotions.
Below is a list of ten of those harmful effects, some of which may come as a surprise to you:
1. Poor Sleep Patterns
Insomnia is the main culprit here, but it can go the other way as well. You may feel exhausted even after more than 8 hours of sleep. Of course, either way, it will affect you in every aspect of your life – work or school can suffer as a result of lack of concentration. Tiredness causes mood swings that could damage relationships. Your enthusiasm and zest for life can slowly disappear and your overall health (both physical and mental) can be seriously affected.
2. Mental Exhaustion
When you hold in your feelings, a common side effect is trying to suppress the uncomfortable memory altogether. Because memories can never be purposely forgotten, this makes your mind work harder. Your brain has to remember to not bring up those uncomfortable memories but at the same time holds the memory to be able to recognise it.
3. Weight Gain
Comfort eating has a direct relationship with suppressing emotions. Food has a way of making us feel better (albeit temporarily), which can create a potentially disastrous cycle of feeling bad, eating to make us feel better, and then feeling bad again for overeating. This will, of course, lead to weight gain.
4. Memory Lapses
Emotions linked to something that happened helps us to remember it better. When you suppress an emotion you have difficulty remembering not just the event but also the time period and events surrounding it.
A study conducted by Stanford University showed that intentionally suppressing emotions causes impaired incidental memory while the emotion is being hidden.
5. High Blood Pressure
In the same study mentioned above, Stanford University found that keeping your emotions inside increases the rate of cardiovascular activity. This is because any kind of stress on your mind or body will up the respiration and heart rates, and both of these have a direct influence on your blood pressure.
6. Digestive Problems
Just like when we are nervous or worried many of us get stomach cramps or aches, similarly other problems such as ulcers, constipation and acid reflux can be caused by suppressed emotions.
7. Shifting Teeth
When you imagine someone trying not to get angry or stressed out, gritted teeth is probably the most typical thing that comes to mind. And rightly so; a surprising number of people have this habit. However, it can be very damaging – the enamel on your teeth becomes weakened causing movements and deformations to your teeth.
Concealing your feelings is hard work for your face. Any kind of negative emotion, like anxiety or worry, causes lines and wrinkles to form on your face. It can reach a point where you are so used to keeping your face in that expression that you don’t even realise you are doing it.
9. Reduced Oxytocin
Oxytocin, or the ‘love hormone’, is released when people snuggle up or bond socially. It helps to reduce stress and blood pressure. If you are suppressing your emotions it is highly likely you are pushing away your loved ones and depriving yourself of this vital hormone.
10. Damage to Your Temporal Lobe
The temporal lobe is the part of your brain that is associated with hearing and with giving stability to your moods. If you are suppressing emotions, you are interfering with its work and therefore shifting the natural balance it is trying to give. This can, over long periods of time, cause chronic reduction in the temporal lobe function.