Emotionally repressed symptoms

Repressed Emotions: Finding and Releasing Them

Repressed emotions refer to emotions that you unconsciously avoid. These differ from suppressed emotions, which are feelings you purposely avoid because you don’t know exactly how to deal with them.

Say you and your partner have a fight and decide to break up one evening. You still have to meet with an important client at work the next day, so you decide to suppress, or push aside, your feelings until you get home from that meeting.

Suppression can sometimes be a good short-term solution, as long as you make sure to address those emotions sooner rather than later.

Repressed emotions, on the other hand, don’t get a chance to be processed. But that doesn’t mean they simply disappear. Instead, they might show up as a range of psychological or physical symptoms.

Emotional repression often relates to childhood experiences.

Much of what children learn about behavior and communication comes from their primary caregivers.

So, you’ll probably feel pretty comfortable expressing your emotions if your caregivers:

  • frequently talked about their feelings
  • encouraged you to share how experiences made you feel
  • normalized your positive and negative emotional experiences
  • didn’t judge or criticize your emotional expressions

Adults with repressed emotions often feel out of touch or disconnected from their feelings because they had a different childhood experience.

For example, you might be more likely to repress emotions if your caregivers:

  • rarely showed emotion or talked about their feelings
  • shamed or punished you for expressing your emotions
  • told you your emotions were wrong or denied your experience

If showing your feelings in childhood led to distressing or painful outcomes, you probably learned it was much safer to avoid this entirely. As an adult, you might continue to bury strong emotions without realizing what you’re doing. You might also notice you tend to push even the emotions you do notice aside.

For the most part, people tend to repress strong emotions, especially those associated with discomfort or other unpleasant experiences.

This includes emotions like:

  • anger
  • frustration
  • sadness
  • fear
  • disappointment

Notice a pattern? These emotions are often described as negative. It’s common to repress emotions you consider “bad” or believe other people might judge you for expressing.

Again, this stems back to your childhood. Maybe you grew up hearing things like:

  • “You don’t have any reason to be sad.”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “You should be grateful.”

Even if your caregivers didn’t specifically invalidate your emotional experience, they still might’ve discouraged you from expressing intense emotions freely by telling you to stop crying or shouting.

As a result, you began to think of sadness, anger, and disappointment as emotions you shouldn’t have, or at the very least, shouldn’t acknowledge to anyone.

You could feel more in touch with positive emotions, or those considered “normal” and generally accepted by others. It might seem easier to express them if you know they won’t draw criticism, though this isn’t the case for everyone dealing with emotional repression.

“Hold on,” you might think. “My emotions don’t make me sick… do they?”

They actually can, in a way.

There’s no evidence to suggest emotions directly cause illness, of course. Sadness can’t give you the flu, and anger doesn’t cause cancer.

But research has linked emotional repression to decreased immune system function. If your immune system doesn’t work properly, you might get sick more frequently and recover slowly.

Repressed emotions can also factor into mental health conditions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

These issues often cause physical symptoms, including:

  • muscle tension and pain
  • nausea and digestive problems
  • appetite changes
  • fatigue and sleep problems

Childhood trauma, one possible cause of repressed emotions, may also play a part in chronic illness.

Unresolved anger can have some significant health consequences, too. If you struggle with expressing anger in productive ways, you may face a higher risk of developing:

  • high blood pressure
  • digestive problems
  • cardiovascular disease

It’s not always easy to recognize when you’re dealing with emotional repression, and there’s no definitive test you can take.

If you do have repressed emotions, however, you might notice a few key signs. These signs might show up in your feelings or your behavior — both toward yourself and other people.

Recognizing emotional repression in your feelings

People with repressed emotions often have trouble naming and understanding their emotional experience. This can make it tough to describe how you feel to others, of course, but it also makes it difficult for you to recognize when certain aspects of your life aren’t serving your needs.

You might:

  • regularly feel numb or blank
  • feel nervous, low, or stressed a lot of the time, even if you aren’t sure why
  • have a tendency to forget things
  • experience unease or discomfort when other people tell you about their feelings
  • feel cheerful and calm most of the time because you never let your thoughts linger on anything significant or upsetting
  • feel distressed or irritated when someone asks you about your feelings

Recognizing emotional repression in your behavior

Repressed emotions commonly show up in behavior and can affect how you respond to others.

If you have a hard time expressing feelings as you experience them in healthy ways, your emotions can build up until they eventually explode, sometimes in response to very small triggers. This can contribute to problems in your interpersonal relationships.

Emotional repression can affect your ability to:

  • talk about things that matter to you
  • build intimate relationships
  • understand how other people feel
  • encourage or praise yourself

You might also notice that you:

  • go along with situations instead of expressing what you really want and need
  • use substances, TV, social media, or other activities to help you numb and avoid feelings you don’t want to explore
  • spend most of your time with other people to avoid being alone
  • exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors to deal with situations that upset you

Still another sign: Others often describe you as “chill,” “calm,” or “relaxed”

If you have trouble expressing or regulating your emotions, talking to a mental health professional is a good first step.

A therapist can help you explore potential causes of repressed emotions and offer guidance and support as you begin to address these reasons.

Therapy also provides a safe space to:

  • work on naming and understanding your feelings
  • increase your comfort level around talking about emotions
  • learn more helpful methods of emotional regulation

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is one approach that may have particular benefit for emotional repression. EFT emphasizes emotional expression as one of the most important components of your personal experience and your ability to relate to others.

According to EFT theory, people who have a hard time accessing and understanding their feelings typically also struggle to enjoy meaningful relationships with others. This approach is often used in couples counseling, but it can also help you work through childhood trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms.

Things you can try right now

You can also get started practicing emotional expression on your own by trying these steps:

  • Check in. Ask yourself how you feel right now. If you have a hard time speaking your emotions at first, trying using words or colors in a journal or piece of art. You can even find a song that matches your mood.
  • Use “I” statements. Practice expressing your feelings with phrases like “I feel confused. I feel nervous. I feel terrified.”
  • Focus on the positive. It might seem easier to name and embrace positive emotions at first, and that’s OK. The goal is to get more comfortable with all of your emotions, and small steps help.
  • Let go of judgement. No matter what emotion you’re feeling, avoid judging yourself or telling yourself you shouldn’t feel a certain way. Instead, try finding a reason for the feeling: “I feel nervous because I’m about to have my yearly performance review.”
  • Make it a habit. Practice naming and sharing your emotions with the people you feel closest to. Encourage them to share their feelings, too.

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

It’s natural to want to avoid feeling bad. Plenty of people feel at least a little afraid of confronting deep, intense emotions, especially those they link to unpleasant or unwanted experiences.

While it may sound a little counterintuitive, learning to embrace those negative feelings can actually help improve emotional well-being over time.

Getting more comfortable with your emotions, even the ones that don’t feel great, can help you navigate the challenges of life more successfully while also improving your relationship with yourself and anyone else you care about.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

Are You Emotionally Repressed? How to Tell

By: Skyler King

by Andrea M. Darcy

We all suppress our emotions when, say, midway through a presentation we remember a recent breakup and feel sad.

A healthy person can then later release those emotions in the company of friends, or when alone with their journal and a box of tissues.

The problem arises when our emotions are so repressed, not only do we hide how we feel in public? We just don’t know how we feel even when alone, or when with people we care about.

[How do you end up the sort who is emotionally repressed? Read our connected article, “What are Repressed Emotions?“]

How do I know if I am emotionally repressed?

An interesting sign that you are emotionally repressed can be that you hate being asked how you feel about something or someone. This question, innocently asked by another, will leave you feeling blank, speechless, powerless and confused, or alternately disproportionately annoyed, as if someone is violating your privacy by asking it.

If you are emotionally repressed, showing or understanding your emotions will be a problem in all areas of your life, not just some. So if you are affectionate and open with friends and family but struggle to relax around colleagues, it could be more a case of something like new job jitters or a personality clash.

[Think your problem has to do with anger? Read our connected piece on Repressed Anger .]

Symptoms and signs of repressing emotions

There are general signs of repression, as well as relating signs and related psychological issues.

General signs you are emotionally repressed

You will find that youL:

  • feel uncomfortable around highly emotional people
  • secretly think anger and sadness are ‘bad’
  • rarely if ever cry or yell
  • overreact when angry or sad (blowing up when you are asked to dry the dishes more carefully)
  • think you feel ‘fine’ all the time and see yourself as ‘laid back’ and ‘easygoing’
  • have phases of relying heavily on escape hobbies, like binge watching TV, video games, and oversleeping
  •  have experiences you are not sure you enjoy but you just let them happen
  • take the time to hear your thoughts, it’s negative thinking or criticisms of yourself and/or others
  • feel a need to be in control of things.

Relating signs

Relating signs of repression can mean you:

Connected psychological issues

Related psychological issues can mean that you:

  • feel low and tired for no real reason, or are mildly depressed
  • experience low-level anxiety or ongoing stress
  • suffer from low self-esteem
  • have a mind that is foggy and unclear, or are forgetful and absent-minded
  • use self-destructive behaviours, such as overeating and drinking too much
  • struggle with weight issues
  • suffer constant flus and cold (low immune system)
  • have sleep problems.

What do others say?

Still not sure if you are emotionally repressed? It might be helpful to consider the feedback others often give you. Have you often been told that ‘you have a wall’, that ‘there is something fake about you’, or that you are ’emotionally cold’? Or even that you are passive aggressive? These can be signs you have a backlog of hidden emotions that need to be expressed.

Examples of being emotionally repressed

By: Mark B. Schlemmer

So how might these symptoms of being emotionally repressed work in real life? Let’s look at a few scenarios.

You have been dating someone for quite a while, when they ask you what you think about them. You panic. You are tongue tied… They persist with the question. You suddenly feel quite resentful and angry. Over the next few weeks, they keep bringing it up, and the more they do, the more distant you feel. Finally, they end the relationship. You feel numb inside and decide it was never love anyway.

You are a happy go lucky person. You really are. You never feel bad, not at all, and you have tons of friends! You try your best to never be alone… if you have to be by yourself you are calling or texting people or you binge watch television and overeat. It’s just that when you are alone you feel bored and uncomfortable. Suddenly, one day at work, someone criticises an assignment you have done and you feel so furious you almost throw something at them. You don’t know where the anger comes from, and it doesn’t fit with your idea that you are a good person all the time.

You don’t see yourself as emotionally repressed. Your childhood was not great, but nothing that bad happened. You drink every night and are about fifty pounds overweight but you tell yourself it’s normal. Sometimes you feel really lonely. So you drink or eat more. One day a friend tells you that they are starting to think their parents never really loved them. You find it overemotional and too dramatic and begin to slowly distance yourself from that friend.

What should I do if this sounds like me?

Being emotionally repressed can make life very difficult, and can be connected to serious psychological issues, all of which is covered in our connected piece, “What Are Repressed Emotions?“.

It’s a good idea to seek support if you think you are emotionally repressed. Repressed emotions are often connected to difficult experiences in the past, so trying to navigate it all alone can be overwhelming. A trained counsellor or psychotherapist can create a safe and supportive environment for you to access and process old emotions. They can also help you make new decisions that see you move forward in life.

Harley Therapy puts you in touch with some of London’s top counselling psychologists and psychotherapists at central and prestigious locations. If you aren’t in the UK, we also connect you with Online Therapists.

Have a question about being emotionally repressed, or want to share a personal anecdote with our readers? Comment below.

why they interfere with life and how to deal with it - Snob

Suppressed emotions are a real Pandora's box, but what comes out of it will not affect the whole world, but only you personally. Sooner or later, an unprocessed emotion, feeling, childhood or any other trauma will certainly overtake you, says Alexander Sharov, founder of the INCREASE.Space

school for improving personal and corporate effectiveness. Photo: Nadine Shaabana / Unsplash

Our initial reaction to everything that happens around us is supported by emotions, it is they that provoke this or that action. Of course, with age, a person learns to first think about his actions and not make decisions “on emotions”. So we begin to control them and suppress them at certain moments. The most banal example is to answer “everything is fine” to a question about the state of your affairs, but you don’t want to burden relatives or friends with your problems and worries. On the other hand, speaking out is very good for your own health.

Repressed emotions are all those experiences, moments of joy, sadness, fear that you have left in yourself. You didn’t discuss the situation with someone, didn’t let off steam, didn’t ask for advice, that is, you didn’t receive emotional feedback, which plays a big role in your internal state. And the more such baggage, the more you will immerse yourself in yourself, scrolling through this or that situation in your head, which leads to frustration and stress.

That is why many people are not ready to do the work they once failed, and they are constantly accused of this. They don't want to experience it again, they start avoiding it. Then, as a rule, automatism works: when they are given such an objectionable assignment, they shift the responsibility onto others, try to refuse under any pretext, or immediately come up with a reason for future failure. There are many options, and all of them are scenarios of one emotion, one feeling, which lies at the root of all these problems. This is guilt, a person does not want to experience it anymore, but where did it come from and why, he will not even think.

The reaction to repressed emotions can manifest itself in three different ways:

  • Psychosomatic diseases. It doesn't matter whether you believe that your well-being depends on your thoughts, feelings and inner mood or not, various ailments will manifest themselves. At times like this I always say that oxygen doesn't care if you believe in it, but without it you will die. And pay attention: happy people are, as a rule, healthy people.

  • Escape from myself. If you think that by forgetting about the emotion, "digging" deeper, or admitting that it has gone by itself, solve the problem, it is not. Until you begin to work through the emotion, it will live in you and come out at the most crucial moment. Your condition will be overshadowed by a feeling of constant tension and pressure, nervousness and panic. Imagine how such swings will affect you - yesterday you were calm, efficient and unbending, today you are incredibly nervous, break down and don’t know what to do with yourself. At such moments, automatisms work - calling relatives, taking antidepressants, eating sweets, visiting a psychologist. But as soon as this state subsides, you return to your usual way, until the next such breakdown. Many people live in this cycle for the rest of their lives.

  • Deny the problem. We can ignore for a long time the fact that something is inherent in us that can greatly interfere with us. Suppressed emotions are what keep you from achieving great results. Sometimes they are also a compensatory mechanism that helps, on the contrary, to achieve, and I know such an example. But what is interesting is this: having dealt with this compensatory mechanism, that is, with what he had been suppressing for so long, a person realized that he did not need these successes and money - this is exactly what prevented him from being happy. His entourage did not understand this, this suggests that most people do not even know close what happiness is and whether they need it.

How to work through repressed emotions

Repressed feeling manifests itself at the most inopportune moment and completely captures you, dulling rationality in favor of emotions. This causes a chain reaction or, as they say in construction, "dynamic destruction" - one element breaks, everything else collapses. The brain begins to work according to the principle "if only to fight back, then somehow we will survive. " That key moment, when this spark flares up, is noticed by a few. But knowing about the trigger that provokes the reaction is not enough, you should have the skill of working out your own emotions and feelings.

Photo: Callum Skelton / Unsplash


This practice helps you deal with those very moments when suppressed emotions begin to overwhelm you. You will redirect your emotional outburst, find a use for it, and in this way work through the feeling that torments you.

The goal is to write down everything that is in your head at the moment. No need to think about what to write, transfer absolutely everything to paper, not embarrassed in expressions. In this way, you do not crush this emotion, do not fantasize about revenge, but pour out what is happening here and now. Write until this emotional state and experience completely leaves you.

Reception works great when, for example, you want to send your boss, colleagues, and generally quit. Taking a short pause of a couple of minutes, you will calm down, do not speak hastily and do not get nervous. And by saving these records, with future work on emotions, you will see a specific difference between their manifestation and will be able to observe whether something is changing at all in your life.

Release the emotion

This method is described in David Hawkins' book Letting Go. Way of surrender. It is not difficult to guess that you need to let go of what torments you. Allow yourself not to fight the emotion, surrender to it for a period of time. You must accept it as a fact, and the less resistance, the faster this negative state will recede.

You process this emotion and let it go rather than dwelling on it and obsessing over it. No need to try to fix something and prove your case - it makes you kill the emotion. Your task is to look into her eyes, recognize that she is, and understand the reason for her appearance.

Both methods are aimed at getting rid of excess. Remove what is pulling you down, no need to try to defeat it by force - the struggle causes a reciprocal struggle. For some reason, we always think that if we fight, we will defeat the thought, but it begins to feed on your energy.

Believe me, when you start to dismantle this Pandora's box, you will understand how difficult everything is. Imagine what happens when a person simultaneously wakes up fear, and hatred, and guilt, and envy - it is difficult to get rid of one feeling, and there are always several of them. Work on yourself takes at least a year, and often even up to three years. But, having passed this path, you will become a different, better version of yourself, life will become happier - and, most likely, longer.

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6 signs that you are repressing your emotions (and where it can lead)

Do not explain your emotional secretiveness with the term "introvert". Being an introvert is one thing, forcibly suppressing your emotions and hiding them from others is another. In some situations, it will seem to you that it is better to keep silent about your experiences (maybe sometimes it is), but if you constantly hide them, then in the long run, emotions will turn into a big lump of complexes, pain and understatement that you cannot control, and most importantly, forget how to share your innermost thoughts even with the closest people. Sometimes it is better to be alone with yourself and ask yourself about the most uncomfortable and unpleasant issues to discuss. But first, be sensitive to yourself: note how you reacted to this or that borderline situation, and pay attention to inner feelings. There are several signs of suppression of emotions, noticing which in time, you can avoid negative consequences.

You avoid confrontations with people

Many people try to avoid arguments and conflicts because they are afraid that such confrontations can lead to quarrels, social imbalances, and in the worst case, you will remain misunderstood and judged for your own thoughts. An ideological confrontation should not scare you so much: this is not the starting point of hostility, but rather be a way to get to know the interlocutor better and perceive new information as an impetus for rethinking one's values ​​or for the possibility of personal growth. If you consciously avoid any occasion, then you are trying to suppress not only your "I", but also the emotions that you experience. Through a dispute or the right conflict, you can throw out the accumulated feelings and experiences, even resentment. Speaking your mind is an important action that will free your mind from stress. Otherwise, the accumulation of negative emotions will lead not only to a low sense of self, but also to a deterioration in relations with a person, he may think that you are just trying to avoid him. Also, at one moment it will be impossible to restrain your impulses, and you will throw out all the accumulated hardships on one person who happened to be nearby at that moment ( see also : Playing by the rules: how to quarrel with a partner to strengthen relationships).

You are afraid to expose your weaknesses

In everyone's life there comes a moment when feelings are heightened to the limit: pain, resentment, grief. Subconsciously, you try to find a person who can at least listen to you, and at the most help in this situation. Very often, embarrassment takes precedence over the desire to cry and talk about our experiences, then we suppress our emotions. Do not forget that if you try to control your emotions even in the most difficult and overwhelming situation, you will end up feeling even weaker, and it will be much more difficult to get rid of anxiety and shock.

You are quick-tempered, even a trifle can piss you off.

Spilled coffee, a push on the shoulder, burnt toast. Do you get frustrated and irritated when something goes wrong or doesn't go according to plan? Unfortunately, it's not just the circumstances. Your anger and discontent are cumulative emotions that you have not thrown out before. You restrain yourself during important and serious situations, try to hide your inner world, feelings from others and protect yourself from outside influences, try to abstract and run away from real problems. But as soon as the opportunity to express your feelings is given, your nervous system does it. Therefore, most often such emotional outbursts occur over trifles that do not require special self-suppression.

You don't feel like yourself

As soon as you suppress your emotions, you begin to play a certain role that you yourself have come up with. If you behave differently in society than when you are alone, then you are not comfortable sharing with the world what you really feel. You can pretend that everything is fine even at the moment when you feel the most empty. Creating such an illusion will harm, first of all, only yourself. Pay attention to whether your behavior with loved ones has changed, try to gradually show your “I” in a small company, and with each meeting you will feel more and more comfortable.

You experience a constant sense of anxiety

Anxiety can be experienced when you are afraid that someone else will find out about your experiences (that's why you hide them). You can worry when you are silent, because you sincerely want to share your experience, but you don’t know how, you are afraid of condemnation and misunderstanding. Discomfort at work, excessive worries about everyday things - painful sensations affect not only your psychological state, but also your physical state. The body, just like the brain, feels your anxiety and anxiety. The more often you suppress yourself, the more your body gets used to the fact that anxiety is a normal state in which it lives most of the time ( see also : The stress virus: is anxiety really contagious (and how to protect yourself). The ability to cope with your emotions will gradually return you to a balanced state and, having relaxed, your consciousness will reject negative manifestations.

You are uncomfortable with people who show their emotions strongly

If you do not like to show your emotions, then you are unlikely to have a positive attitude towards those who do not hide their feelings.

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