Don’t Ignore Your Emotions… Here’s Why
This is a disclaimer that this article is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.
Are you someone who stuffs down emotions, pretending everything is fine even when it’s clearly not? You might think it’s easier to just sweep your feelings under the rug, but the truth is that ignoring them can be dangerous.
In this article, we’ll reveal the consequences of burying your feelings, and show you why it’s so important to face your emotions head-on. We’ll also give you some tips on how you can learn to manage them and avoid negative consequences. These are some important insights, so let’s start!
From time to time, we all get a bit angry. And that’s okay, because anger is an important emotion. This is what licensed psychologist and therapist Dr. Rune Moelbak says about it: anger “tells us if our freedom has been squashed, if our pride has been injured, if the way we see the world has been invalidated, or if our feelings have been ignored. It alerts us to the fact that we have been wronged in some way.”
You see, anger can sometimes befit you, but ignoring it can have negative consequences both on your mental and physical health. A 2012 study published in the journal Cognitive Behaviour Therapy found that repressing anger is related to generalized anxiety disorder and can even worsen the severity of its symptoms. Another study from The Spanish Journal of Psychology in 2016 found that individuals who tend to repress anger had worse self-reported health than those with low levels of anger suppression. This might happen because stress and anger activate physiological responses in the body, such as changes in heart rate and breathing. That’s why it’s important to learn to express and regulate your anger in a healthy way.
To do this, you could take a look at the anger iceberg, a popular concept in psychology developed by psychologists Julie and John Gottman from The Gottman Institute. It means recognizing the different emotions below the surface of your anger. If you’re interested, take a look at some worksheets in the description box to learn more!
Breaking up, moving away from friends, or simply not having anyone to talk to… It all triggers loneliness that we can feel. This can be uncomfortable, but it can teach you valuable lessons about social connections and the importance of reaching out. Pushing loneliness away could lead to further isolation which deteriorates your mental health. A Review on the Psychological Aspects of Loneliness published in 2014 found that loneliness can lead to depression, feeling helpless, and even experiencing pain. But similar to anger, ignoring it goes beyond psychological problems. One study published in 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that loneliness should be seen as a physical problem as well. The authors of the study believe it to be an “immunometabolic syndrome”, because of the negative consequences it has on your health: it can cause inflammation and an overall weakened immune system, making it easier to get sick.
This is why you shouldn’t ignore it! Licenced social worker Leah Aguirre suggests that you try to “approach it with more curiosity and self-compassion”. She says spending quality time on your own might help. What are your hobbies? When was the last time you pampered yourself? Reconnecting with yourself might help you notice that you’re never actually alone, because you always have you.
Jealousy is a complex emotion that can be difficult to navigate. According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist April Eldemire, jealousy teaches us about our own insecurities and vulnerabilities. When you feel jealous, it can be a sign that you’re questioning yourself – your looks, your relationships, or even your worth. Ignoring this green-eyed monster means that those insecurities won’t be addressed, but instead used against you.
A study from 2005 found that jealousy can lead to aggressive behaviors in adolescents. The researchers observed that individuals who experienced higher levels of jealousy were more likely to engage in both physical aggression, like hitting or pushing, and passive aggression, such as ignoring someone they were angry with. These behaviors can persist into adulthood and potentially damage relationships. If you don’t address your jealousy, you may become aggressive or controlling, even if you don’t mean to. But ultimately, your relationships could suffer.
Marriage and family therapist Vicki Botnick explains for Healthline that persistent jealousy can sometimes be related to anxiety or self-esteem issues. She says that “learning how to deal with either issue can automatically help soothe jealousy.” To address low self-esteem, she suggests that you identify personal values, such as compassion, communication, or honesty, and ensure that you are upholding these values in your daily life. Doing this might give you an opportunity to notice your positive traits and increase your sense of self-respect.
Another emotion we often feel is shame. Some studies, like the one published last year in Psychological Science, believe shame can be useful to us. The belief is that it teaches us about how we are perceived by others and our place in society. It can be a powerful emotion that helps us regulate our behavior and conform to social norms. But if you ignore shame, you may feel disconnected from who you want to be. This feeling in turn brings some negative consequences into your life.
Research has shown that feeling ashamed may lead to self-destructive behavior. A 2019 study from the journal Clinical Psychology Review examined the relationship between shame and self-harm. The researchers found that people who engage in self-injury generally reported higher levels of shame. A year before, a study published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy found evidence that shame might be involved in the development of eating disorders.
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Hailey Shafir wrote on ChoosingTherapy.com that to recover from shame, you must move towards it, not away from it. She suggests accepting it and analyzing it – why do you feel like this? Another helpful tip is learning how to focus on what you can do now, and not what happened in the past.
So, what’s one emotion you’ve been ignoring and how do you plan to address it? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Hopefully, you’ve learned that suppressing how you feel isn’t good for you. Emotions, no matter how pleasant or painful, help us know ourselves better and to understand what it is that we need. We hope that you learned how to listen to those feelings, express them in a healthy way, and improve your mental and physical well-being. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support when you need it – whether it be to a friend, a family member, or a professional. We got your back! And remember: you matter!
Learn more about anger iceberg and regulating anger, and get some worksheets here:
Blythin, S. P. M., Nicholson, H. L., Macintyre, V. G., Dickson, J. M., Fox, J. R. E., & Taylor, P. J. (2018). Experiences of shame and guilt in anorexia and bulimia nervosa: A systematic review. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 93(1), 134–159. https://doi.org/10.1111/papt.12198
ChoosingTherapy.com. (2020, November 12). Shame: Causes, effects, & how to overcome. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/shame/
Deschênes, S. S., Dugas, M. J., Fracalanza, K., & Koerner, N. (2012). The role of anger in generalized anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 41(3), 261–271. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2012.666564
Eldemire, A. (2018, October 3). Why do we get jealous in relationships? The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/why-do-we-get-jealous-in-relationships/
LCSW, L. A. (2021, July 8). 6 ways to cope with feelings of loneliness. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-dating/202107/6-ways-cope-feelings-loneliness
Lupis, S. B., Lerman, M., & Wolf, J. M. (2014). Anger responses to psychosocial stress predict heart rate and cortisol stress responses in men but not women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 49, 84–95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.07.004
Moelbak, R. (2020, October 24). Important lessons your anger can teach you. Psychologist Houston – Therapist Houston – Better Therapy. https://bettertherapy.com/blog/anger-lessons/
Parker, J. G., Low, C. M., Walker, A. R., & Gamm, B. K. (2005). Friendship jealousy in young adolescents: Individual differences and links to sex, self-esteem, aggression, and social adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 41(1), 235–250. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.206
Pourriyahi, H., Yazdanpanah, N., Saghazadeh, A., & Rezaei, N. (2021). Loneliness: An immunometabolic syndrome. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(22), 12162. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182212162
Raypole, C. (2019, October 31). 12 ways to let go of jealousy. Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-not-be-jealous#consider-the-big-picture
Regan, S. (2020, June 28). Understanding the anger iceberg & how to work with it effectively. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-anger-iceberg-and-how-to-work-with-it-effectively
Romero-Martínez, Á., & Moya-Albiol, L. (2016). High Anger Expression is Associated with Reduced Cortisol Awakening Response and Health Complaints in Healthy Young Adults. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 19. https://doi.org/10.1017/sjp.2016.20
Schaumberg, R. L., & Skowronek, S. E. (2022). Shame broadcasts social norms: The positive social effects of shame on norm acquisition and normative behavior. Psychological Science, 33(8), 1257–1277. https://doi.org/10.1177/09567976221075303
Sheehy, K., Noureen, A., Khaliq, A., Dhingra, K., Husain, N., Pontin, E. E., Cawley, R., & Taylor, P. J. (2019). An examination of the relationship between shame, guilt and self-harm: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 73, 101779. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2019.101779