themighty logo

Why Repression Hurts You in the Long Run


Human beings tend to avoid negative emotions at all costs. Whether you experience verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or any other kind of trauma, it can be difficult to confront the pain of what you went through. As a method of self-protection, your brain may want to hide your trauma from you, so it blocks it out. That is called “repression.” It means that you’re unintentionally or intentionally avoiding painful feelings. It’s hard to confront emotions that cause you emotional distress. Don’t beat yourself up, but we’re going to talk about why it’s happening, and how to handle it when you realize you’re repressing emotions.

Repression hurts your mental health

Repressing feelings is harmful to your mind and your body, but sometimes, you can’t seem to control it. It is a typical and natural response to pain. It’s especially true if you live with PTSD. However, if you recognize that you are hiding from your emotions for any reason — whether it’s that they are too intense, it hurts too much, you don’t want to deal with painful memories, or you want to pretend that your trauma didn’t happen at all — it’s essential to deal with your feelings. It is hard to face them, but I can guarantee that you will be healthier when you do.

You can get help to access your emotions

Now, remember, you don’t have to do this alone. If you are a survivor of trauma, it is especially important that you don’t try to navigate the healing process all by yourself. Seeing a trauma therapist is your best bet. If you experience strong emotions that are impacting your quality of life, it is crucial to speak to a mental health professional. You are allowed to feel your feelings. Sometimes, what you need to do is let it rip. Let it happen so everything is out on the table. Acknowledge how much pain you are in. Once you let it out, you will be able to work through it piece by piece and learn what to do in the future when the trauma surfaces. That is how you will heal.

Repression can negatively affect your physical health

When you stifle emotions, it can negatively impact your body. Your muscles tense up, you might get migraines or more severe issues. The mind-body connection is real. I have a friend who constantly repressed her anger, and eventually she developed a stomach ulcer. If you’re repressing feelings, intentionally or not, get help. My friend saw a therapist, and she was able to heal her stomach and stop repressing her feelings.

When people don’t believe you

One of the things that can cause someone to repress their emotions is because the people around them are in denial of what they went through. Sometimes the people who don’t believe you are your family, and that’s heartbreaking. Remember that your feelings are valid and you own your experiences. If you express your emotions and someone tells you that they aren’t real, don’t listen to them. That would cause further repression, which would be detrimental to your mental health. If the people around you tend to ignore or skirt around your trauma, it might be that it’s too hard for them to face it themselves. Remember that and understand that you are brave for facing what the people around you won’t.

How to stop ignoring feelings

One of the best things you can do for your mental health is work on emotional awareness. Notice when you’re actively avoiding feeling your emotions, ask yourself why that’s happening, and even write it down. You can talk about it with your therapist. Take steps to stop doing so immediately. It can be helpful to write down what you feel so you can bring it up later with a therapist. Seeking help is important for your mental health. Not only will it give you a place to talk, but it will also give you a place to discuss and develop healthy coping skills. Whether you are working with a therapist in person or online, your mental health is precious, so don’t be afraid to reach out. You deserve to be well.

Getty photo by David-Prado