Why do we Bottle Up Emotions?
We bottle up emotions when we basically stop ourselves from expressing how we’re feeling. Often it starts in childhood as a protective mechanism where we may not
have felt safe expressing strong feelings such as anger or fear. This can then become a habit as bottling it up can seem easier and over time, we may not actually be aware that we’re doing it. Also as we get older, we keep bottling it up so we don’t appear weak, or out of control.
But it’s a bit like trying to keep a lid on a simmering pot of water. It doesn’t work as the emotions don’t actually go away. So even if they aren’t expressed overtly, they’re still there in the body. Over time they will manifest in different ways, as the bottling up causes stress in the body and may lead to suppressed immune function or other health issues.
Signs we’re Bottling Up Emotions
- Trouble focusing or concentrating
- Regular headaches
- Feeling anxious a lot of the time
- Heavier reliance on unhealthy behaviours or coping mechanisms e.g. increased drinking, smoking or eating or possibly even working out excessively
- Weight fluctuations (due to imbalance in cortisol, due to stress in the body)
- Digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhoea
- Disconnecting or withdrawing from social activity
- Overreacting to situations
- Feeling increasingly cranky or resentful
- Not being able to express your point of view
- Avoiding confrontation
How does this Impact Mental and Physical Health?
While it may seem easier in the short term, over the longer term bottling up emotions can have negative effects on both our physical and mental health and can also undermine our self esteem and self confidence. Bottling it Up increases stress in the body which can potentially lead to increased risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, coronary disease, auto immune conditions and also impair memory function.
In terms of mental health, it can lead to increased anxiety and depression and lead to reactive outbursts or increased feelings of resentment. Further not expressing our feelings can make it difficult to connect with people and to be authentic in relationships, leading to an increased sense of isolation and loneliness.