The world has been telling you to bottle up your emotions your entire life. There’s no crying in baseball after all, right? But even though suppressing your emotions may spare others the discomfort of having to deal with your feelings, keeping it all on the inside can cause a hell of a lot of harm. Men, in particular, run the risk of exploding in rages as they finally unleash their pent-up emotions, and suffering long-term physical and psychological damage for failing to manage stress in a healthy way.
Here’s what happens when you suppress your emotions:
Your Stomach Twists Itself Into Knots
The chronic stress that comes from unresolved emotions can trigger your sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response, according to research from Harvard Medical School. This slows digestion, resulting in gas, bloating, constipation, vomiting, and, occasionally, ulcers.
Your Neck And Shoulders Scream From Stress
Head and neck pain are one of the most common symptoms of bottled up emotions, largely because the stress of holding back causes muscles in the jaw to tighten, Lawrence explains. Although there’s some debate among experts about how knots, or myofascial trigger points, are formed (or if they even exist), they are thought to be formed in part by overuse of muscles—perhaps from clenching your jaw.
You May Experience Headaches And Migraines
The corrugator muscles in the forehead and brow tighten in response to emotional stress, producing a frown, and a tight corrugator muscle is often a good indicator of stress throughout the entire body, psychologist Daniel Goleman told the New York Times. And when these muscles tighten, you may experience reduced blood flow to the brain — the perfect recipe for a splitting headache.
Stress Might Mess With Your Heart
When more complicated feelings of sadness and shame are buried they can explode in the form of one of the most primitive and destructive emotions of all — anger. This may put you at an increased risk of heart disease. This rage causes a rush of stress hormones that increase energy. But this burst of energy causes blood vessels to tighten as blood pressure increases, which can wear on artery walls over time, according to Web MD. In one study, the risk of heart attack was 8.5 times higher up to two hours after an extreme episode of anger and 9.5 times higher two hours after extreme anxiety. People prone to anger are nearly three times more likely to have heart attacks than those with lower anger, other data shows.
The problem with anger is that it’s a powerful emotion that tends to take over when other emotions are held in, Lawrence says. When it gets to that extreme people often mistakenly release it in aggressive ways that make them angrier and put their hearts in greater jeopardy.
“There are many ways to express our emotions that will make things worse such as yelling, throwing things, becoming physical, slamming doors,” she says. “Learning how to express emotions in a healthy manner is key.”