The emotions we show outwardly are often suppressed so that we appear more calm, but hiding how we feel can cause things to happen to our bodies. Hiding how you feel is pretty normal for us, and even more so in other cultures, but what is the health cost of stuffing emotions?
These Things Happen To Your Body When You Suppress Your Emotions
1. Memory lapses
Emotion associated with an event helps us to remember the event better. When we deny or suppress the emotion part, our brain has to resolve the decision to store the memory with the fact that we do not want to remember the emotion.
A Stanford University study showed that intentionally suppressed emotions cause impaired incidental memory while the emotion is being hidden. Memories are often processed at night, while we sleep which is believed to be one of the functions of dreams.
2. Mental fatigue
Your brain is trying to not remember the situation that caused you to have the emotion that you are trying to suppress. At the same time, you are getting new information in. Your brain is holding the memory that you wanted to forget because of the uncomfortable emotions that it brought up.
As a result, your decision to suppress your emotions has made your brain simultaneously try to remember to forget the upsetting event. What a paradox but now you’ve caused yourself to be mentally tired. Read our article on mental fatigue for some tips to reduce the brain strain.
3. You get less oxytocin
Suppressing emotions means that you are denying anger, sadness or fear and these negative emotions can often be worked out with those closest to you. Letting out your emotions on the ones you love rather than the ones who hurt you will result in relationship problems.
With your relationship suffering, you get less of the cuddle hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin reduces stress in the body by lowering your blood pressure, heart rate and rate of respiration. A hug is exactly what you need, but because you are suppressing your emotions, you push away the ones who can help you most.
4. You have bad sleep habits
Another thing that happens to your body when you suppress emotions is insomnia. Lack of good sleep can cause your brain to shut down when you need it most; on the job. A sleep deficit can cause you to make costly mistakes at work, and your boss will definitely notice. Not to mention, poor sleep habits affect all other areas of life, including relationships, physical health, and mental health.
5. Elevated blood pressure
The same Stanford study that showed that hiding emotions messes with your memory also found that suppressed emotions led to a higher rate of cardiovascular activity.
Higher heart rate, blood pressure, and rates of respiration all increase when your body is stressed and suppressing emotions is stressful to your brain and body.
(Here are 5 additional signs of suppressed emotions)
6. Weight gain
Many people who stuff their emotions down inside also stuff comfort food. This bingeing to feel better, does indeed make you feel better. Food triggers our pleasure and reward center in our brain so we do feel better.
This can create a roller coaster cycle of feeling bad, eating to feel better, and then feeling bad for allowing yourself to binge.
7. You have digestive problems
From upset stomach and ulcers to acid reflux and constipation; there are many digestive problems caused by suppressed emotions. Suppressing emotions is very similar to how your body reacts to stress.
8. Your temporal lobe is not able to do its job
The part of your brain that is in the forehead part of your head is your temporal lobe. It is responsible for stabilizing mood and since you are telling it to not pay attention to the negative emotions, it can’t work the way it is supposed to.
Rather than suppressing emotions and causing all of these problems for your body, try what don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements says. ‘Don’t take anything personally.’ When you choose not to take anything personally, we hear someone’s words that we judge to be hurtful and we choose not to accept their judgment of ourselves because we know that we are worth more.
Speaking politely in the moment while thinking to yourself that you won’t take the words personally is a way to be socially proper while choosing to not feel angry. Mr. Ruiz says ‘Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally’ Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.’
9. Facial wrinkles
Concern, frustration, anger, anxiety, they all wrinkle your face when you show these emotions, but suppressing emotions causes wrinkling too. The reason? Your face is trying to conceal your natural facial expression in response to something or someone.
10. Teeth shift positions
Teeth grinding is one of the most frequent strategies that people use when they are trying to suppress their emotions. We think of someone who trying not to show the emotions of anger and frustration grinding their teeth.
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Teeth grinding weakens the protective enamel coating on your teeth. Teeth grinding from suppressed emotions also causes the teeth in your mouth to shift positions and become deformed.