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Repressed Emotions | What They Are and How to Deal With Them

You would be amazed what repressed emotions can do to your body and your mind.

When I was a kid, I experienced all kinds of strange stomach problems, ranging from bloating, constipation, to feeling overweight and unhappy.

I had gone to multiple doctors and specialists, tried a variety of diets, everything from gluten-free to keto to FOD maps. I tried different kinds of exercise routines.

I got bloodwork done, had my stomach examined inside and out. I spent so much time, energy, and money on trying to diagnose something that wasn’t even really the problem.

The problem was repressed emotion.

What Are Repressed Emotions?

Repressed emotions are known as an aspect of emotional regulation, and, when ignored, can lead to physical conditions and diseases.

In my case, I developed all sorts of gastrointestinal issues. I was constantly bloated and would randomly get searing pain in my abdomen.

And, once I had learned about repressed emotion, I realized things that otherwise I would’ve ignored suddenly made sense. 

For example, when I was in fourth grade, I pulled my right neck muscle so badly that I had to go to the emergency room.

The x-ray showed nothing, and I was sent home to rest and take painkillers. Since then, my neck has been sensitive and will flare up in pain, in that same spot.

As I got older, other conditions came about. I experience an incredibly uncomfortable wave of hives, to the point where I sought professional help and received allergy shots.

Again, I went for bloodwork, and all it showed was a high histamine level, which meant my body was trying to fight off an infection that I no longer had.

Others may experience this with consistent headaches, back pain, TMJ disfunction, etc.

We Hold Emotional Stress in Our Bodies

When we ignore the core root of our emotional stress, we hold that stress in our body. Over time, this builds up to a point where our bodies begin to slowly deteriorate.

This isn’t a new concept, but it is relatively new to our modern-day societal approach in medicine.

In my experience, we see doctors and take what they have to say and don’t question it. While doctors are helpful in providing insights, treatment plans, and so much more, we forget that sometimes we need to advocate for ourselves.

If we feel something is wrong or off, but the doctor says clinically there is “nothing wrong with you,” it doesn’t make your symptoms any less important.

We need to listen to our bodies! 

Studies show that repressed emotions are linked to our physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. At a young age, we experience trauma of all kinds—anything from inconsistent emotional support to abuse and everything in between.

As children, we are not equipped to heal ourselves and work through those emotions. So, we hold them inside and react accordingly to our environment because that is how we survive.

If we don’t do what we are told, if we don’t make our parents/caregivers happy, we, as children, see that as a threat to our survival.

So, instead of feeling our feelings, we are more inclined to hold them in, ignore them, and suppress them inside our bodies until we reach a point in time where they can no longer be ignored.

How to Know If You’re Experiencing Repressed Emotions

So, how do you know if you’re experiencing repressed emotions? For me, I didn’t realize until recently, and I’ve been seeking therapy and working on my mental health since I was just a teenager.

We don’t always realize what these feelings are and where they’re coming from.

We might even ignore it altogether because those symptoms have become so “normal” for us that we don’t realize they might actually be linked to something else that we’ve hidden from ourselves for so long.

You might be experiencing repressed emotion if you:

  • Experience strange symptoms that aren’t linked to a clinical diagnosis (ie, neck pain, hives)
  • Cannot find comfort in traditional treatments 
  • Experience depression and/or depressed moods
  • Struggle with anxiety 
  • Suffer from chronic pain 

There are plenty of resources online to help you find out if what you’re experiencing is in fact repressed emotion.

What You Can Do About Repressed Emotions

For me, it all came down to not being able to explain why I was having the symptoms I was. I had tried everything, and nothing worked

If you have tried to find various ways of treating your pain, only to suffer longer and more intense chronic pain, then this could be a sign your body has been repressing emotion.

Now, just realizing this and feeling your feelings isn’t going to suddenly cure your symptoms. Unfortunately, like anything else, it takes time to recognize and sit with these emotions that you’ve been ignoring for so long.

There are so many layers to you — feeling our emotions won’t cure us, but it is an excellent start towards relieving some of this built-up energy.

I recommend following experts such as Adriana Bucci’s letsgetyourshifttogether account on Instagram, who speaks to this concept regularly.

Her reels are amazing free resources that can help you find your path towards healing. I highly suggest following her as a first step toward educating yourself about repressed emotions and how to start to heal from them.

To live a healthier, more comfortable life, we need to addressing the root cause. Seeking help from a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist is helpful, but it’s the work that you do outside of those sessions that will truly help you heal.

You may also find that traditional therapy doesn’t always work for you. Therapists may examine these feelings more deeply, or give you the space to heal, but doing the work outside of these sessions is what is going to help you move forward.

Exercises such as journaling and allowing yourself to feel the intensity of your emotions — accepting them without judgment — are excellent starts towards opening up your body and mind. 

As someone who is still in the healing process, this sort of thing takes time and patience. Exercises like journaling don’t always feel like they’re working, and it’s incredibly easy to give up and go back to ignoring the symptoms altogether.

After all, we made it this far without doing anything about it, right?

But you’ll find that your symptoms caused by repressed emotions will only continue to increase in intensity, and, no matter the medication or treatment plan you’re on, nothing will seem to help.

A New World for Mental Health

Today, we are slowly beginning to enter a world where mental health is actively talked about. 

Sharing stories, experiences, and journeys is healing for me, but hopefully also healing for the community trying to work through these issues.

I wasn’t aware of repressed emotions and emotional dysregulation in the body until this past year, and I’ve been an active part of the mental health community for a long time.

Just because I’ve been an active member and have spent lots of time working on myself doesn’t mean I know it all already — I’m constantly learning new tools, techniques, and information that isn’t as readily available or accepted in the clinical community. 

If you’ve suffered from undiagnosed conditions, strange and consistent symptoms, you are not alone.

Your body is telling you something, and your body never lies — listen to it.

You can and will be able to heal from this.

Take a deep breath.

Reading this alone shows you’re stronger and more committed than you think. 

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Samantha Mineroff

Samantha Mineroff is a writer, mental health advocate, and aspiring author. In 2018, her paper, “The Rhetoric of Major Depressive Disorder: Performativity and Intra-activity of Emotions in Major Depression” won best seminar paper award at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. At the Poetics And Linguistics Association (PALA) Conference in 2019, she went to The University of Liverpool to present her paper “An Application of Scripts, Schemas, and Negative Accommodation Theory in Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams.” She currently works as a marketing writer for clinical research. She enjoys live jazz, good conversation, and writing letters. You can reach her at sammineroff@gmail.com