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Bottle Up Emotions and How to Cope

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

What Happens When You Bottle Up Emotions and How to Cope

Table of Contents

Why do emotions seem to always bust out at the worst possible time? Whether the cause was a fight with a loved one or simply stubbing your toe, all the emotions buried deep inside you always seem to resurface at the most inconvenient of times. This is often a result of bottling up your emotions and refusing to acknowledge them as they come.

Suppressing and refusing to acknowledge your emotions sometimes feels like the easiest way to cope. This, however, has severe adverse effects on our mental and physical health. Bottling up your emotions can be understood as refusing to acknowledge your feelings instead of expressing yourself and dealing with them. Bottling up emotions often stems from an unwillingness to feel negative or weak, however, avoiding emotions does not make them disappear. Instead, the suppression of emotions has a detrimental effect on our mental and physical health. 

Our mind and body are deeply intertwined. What negatively affects your mental wellbeing, negatively affects your physical health. For instance, if we experience emotions such as anxiety, we disrupt the balance of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our body. This can lead to a compromised immune system, risk of depression, and illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. As explained by clinical psychologist Victoria Tarrat, “suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body.” Moreover, a study from the University of Texas found that by refusing to acknowledge our emotions we are giving them more power over our mind and body.

So, how do we begin to allow ourselves to feel our emotions and cope through them? It can be very difficult to begin to allow yourself to feel emotions as they come, especially when you’ve been suppressing them for so long. Here are some helpful ways to deal with challenging emotions when they arise:

Name the emotions and acknowledge the feelings

As explained by Dr. Michelle Craske at UCLA, naming your emotions is one of the first steps to dealing with them. It has been found that people who verbalize their feelings have a reduced reaction. By naming the emotion, you can decrease their intensity and make the feelings more manageable.

Moreover, oftentimes the emotion isn’t as simple as, “I am angry”, and addressing the feeling can help us explore its underlying complexities. When approaching this, it is helpful to ask yourself questions like, “why am I feeling this emotion” and “why am I acting like this?”  Being able to recognize you’re feeling a certain way and why is an important step to no longer internalizing your feelings.

Confront the cause

If you feel comfortable enough, confronting the person or event that has caused a specific emotion or reaction with the goal of resolution can be beneficial. If this is not possible, attempting to view and understand the emotions you are feeling from an objective perspective can offer you some clarity. By trying to understand your feelings and reactions in this way, you may find why the person acted a certain way or why the situation elicited a specific emotion. Observing offers an opportunity to understand the person or situation that upset you instead of simply suppressing the feelings associated with it.

Talk out your feelings with someone

Talking through your emotions with someone can help you sort through the problem and see the situation from a different point of view. Opening up and talking to someone you trust can decrease the effect the emotion has on your mental and physical well being. Oftentimes, discussing how you’re feeling allows for clarity and makes moving past the emotion much easier.

Take time to care for yourself

Self-care is integral in both developing coping strategies and in understanding how you deal with emotions. Studies have shown that exercise as well as practicing forgiveness and gratitude help with managing unwanted emotions and reactions. Doing anything that helps to nurture your mind and body will improve your ability to cope with your feelings.

Abiding by these steps can be incredibly difficult at first and involve a lot of conscious effort, however, it will significantly lighten your load. Many people have taught themselves to avoid or ignore negative emotions. Avoidance, however, does not make the feelings disappear. Emotional avoidance simply allows you to temporarily put off dealing with your feelings.

Giving yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling will offer you peace that avoidance cannot. With assistance from the comprehensive outpatient mental health treatment in Los Angeles offered by NuView Treatment Centre, following these steps and learning how to cope with your emotions as they come will become easier and easier. So, scream, cry, express yourself and don’t hold those feelings back.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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