The Effects of Stifling Emotions on Health

The act of stifling emotions - holding them in rather than expressing them in a healthy way - is akin to holding an air-filled balloon under water, trying to force it further down until it escapes your grasp. Unfortunately, even if you are very good at withholding emotional expression, you're still experiencing the emotions inwardly. This type of self-control can have damaging effects on your health - particularly if you engage in stifling emotions more often than expressing them.

  1. Stifling Emotions and Emotional Eating

    • Some individuals who stifle their emotions will turn to food - a practice known as emotional eating. According to the Mayo Clinic, emotional eating is a way to stifle your emotions and it generally involves eating too much. Additionally, turning to food to avoid negative emotions may result in eating too many comfort foods. These are foods that tend to be high in processed, refined sugar, flour and fat with little nutritional value. This practice can lead to obesity which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.

    Holding Emotions in Effects Memory

    • The amount of psychological effort required to stifle one's emotions may be significant enough to impair other cognitive functions, such as memory. Dr. Jane Richards of The University of Texas at Austin explains that two of her own research studies have found significant memory impairment in people who stifle their emotions. Dr. Richards adds that stifling emotions is not the same as lacking feelings. Instead, it appears that the energy necessary to hold emotional output inside is distracting enough to make memory recall difficult.

    Stifling Emotions and Chronic Illnesses

    • Becoming adept at stifling your emotions can lead to the development of several chronic conditions, including depression. According to Auckland Therapy, at least two research studies have suggested that the act of stifling an emotion draws more of your effort and attention to it. From these findings, the researchers also suggest that your body is more sensitive to the effects of stifled, rather than expressed emotions. This can lead to conditions such as decreased immunity and increased anxiety. Individuals who are predisposed to high blood pressure may also experience symptoms of the conditions and a co-morbid increased risk of cardiovascular disease.


    • Stifling your emotions may be a product of nature or nurture - or a combination of both. Regardless of the underlying cause, suppressing emotions is probably the least constructive - and most likely the most destructive - way to deal with them. It's important to remember that stifled emotions don't disappear and their effect on your mind, mood and body may be increased without a healthy outlet for expression. If you believe you tend to stifle your emotions, consider consulting with your doctor or therapist.

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