Let It Out: How Suppressing Emotions Can Affect Health

Expert Cited: Dr. Gabor Maté
Written by
Brian Leddy
Young professional businessman under stress uses a 2023 11 27 05 17 05 utc large

Are you ready to talk about your feelings? When you signed up for your BodyStack membership, you likely thought we would spend time talking about saving money on supplements or maybe more strategies for the gym.

The truth is, none of those things matter if you're not taking care of your mental health as well. 

Emotions and health

Emotions play a crucial role in our overall well-being. They guide our decisions, influence our relationships, and affect our physical health. 

However, in many cultures, expressing emotions, particularly negative ones like anger and sadness, is often discouraged. 

This suppression of emotions can have significant negative effects on physical health. Dr. Gabor Maté, a renowned physician, has extensively studied the connection between emotional repression and disease, providing valuable insights into how repressing feelings can lead to various health issues.

What is Emotional Suppression?

Emotional suppression involves consciously or unconsciously pushing away or ignoring emotions instead of acknowledging and expressing them.

People often suppress emotions to avoid conflict, fit societal norms, or cope with overwhelming situations.

While this might provide temporary relief, it can have long-term detrimental effects on health.

Physical Health Consequences

Suppressing emotions, especially chronic emotional suppression, can lead to various physical health issues:

Cardiovascular Problems: Repressed emotions can lead to chronic stress, which increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

Immune System Suppression: Emotional repression can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Gastrointestinal Disorders: Suppressed emotions can manifest as gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, and chronic indigestion.

Chronic Pain: Emotional suppression can contribute to chronic pain conditions such as tension headaches, migraines, and musculoskeletal pain.

Cancer and Autoimmune Diseases: Research suggests a link between chronic emotional repression and an increased risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Suppressed emotions can lead to prolonged stress, which may trigger inflammatory processes in the body.

The Mechanisms Behind the Impact

The connection between emotional suppression and physical health can be understood through several physiological mechanisms:

Stress Hormones: Repressing emotions can lead to chronic activation of the stress response, resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can have various negative effects on the body, including immune suppression and increased inflammation.

Inflammation: Chronic stress and emotional repression can trigger inflammatory responses in the body, contributing to the development of chronic diseases.

Nervous System Dysregulation: Suppressed emotions can disrupt the autonomic nervous system, leading to issues like high blood pressure, digestive problems, and chronic pain.

Healthy Emotional Expression

Expressing emotions healthily is crucial for maintaining good physical and mental health. Here are some strategies to help you express emotions more effectively:

Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help you become more aware of your emotions and learn to accept them without judgment.

Journaling: Writing about your feelings can be a powerful way to process and express emotions.

Therapy and Counseling: Professional therapists can provide a safe space for you to explore and express your emotions.

Creative Outlets: Engaging in creative activities like art, music, or dance can be a therapeutic way to express emotions.

Communication: Learning to communicate your feelings openly and honestly with trusted friends and family members can help reduce emotional suppression.

Suppressing emotions may provide temporary relief, but it can have long-term negative effects on your physical health. By acknowledging and expressing your emotions in healthy ways, you can reduce stress, improve your immune function, and lower your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Embracing your emotions and finding effective ways to express them is a crucial step toward achieving overall well-being.

Brian Leddy Profile Image
Brian Leddy CEO & Co-Founder, BodyStack (FDN-P)
Certified Functional Diagnostic Practitioner (FDN-P) and owner of Leddy Functional Wellness. Formerly an Adweek Executive and Media Entreprenuer, Brian pivoted his career to focus on inspiring and coaching people from all walks of life to make positive strides in their respective health journeys. Brian is a Co-Founder, and now serves as the CEO of BodyStack.
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