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Recognizing Emotional Constipation

We live in a world where we are emotionally backed up. Many of us are struggling with Emotional Constipation. We live in a culture that, by and large, is not very comfortable with emotions and self-expression. So, most of us live in denial and hence do not allow ourselves to feel and show our real emotions. We have become adept at detaching, suppressing and avoiding any difficult or uncomfortable feeling.

But this repression of emotions cannot go on forever. Freud discovered links between repression of emotions and physical symptoms nearly a century ago. Studies by Pennebaker and his colleagues in 1997 demonstrated that individuals who repress their emotions also suppress their body’s immunity, making them more vulnerable to a variety of illnesses ranging from common colds to cancer. Other studies in recent years have shown patients who find it difficult to manage their emotions often display a history of substance abuse, poor nutrition, disordered eating, abnormal sleep patterns and noncompliance with medical interventions.

So emotional constipation is defined as the bottling up of emotions due to an unwillingness or inability to process, express and release what one is feeling or experiencing.

Here are some commonly seen signs in kids and adults emotional constipation:

They spend most of their time alone

It is okay to enjoy going for a walk or cup of coffee alone, but people who are emotionally repressed actively avoid contact with people as a defence mechanism. Such people might isolate themselves to avoid potential triggers, so that no one can say or do anything to make them feel upset or uncomfortable. But gradually this will lead to loss of ability to interact and empathise with others.

Credits: Dmitry Schemelev

They have a difficult time empathising with other people

They become an expert at avoiding and numbing out emotions and hence, have zero tolerance and empathy for those who express emotions. Like treating a crying friend or child as weak or too sensitive. This can send a message to the other person that their feelings are unjustified which may cause people to distance themselves.

They feel angry and/or depressed most of the time

People who keep suppressing their emotions, may experience irrational bouts of anger or weeping without any idea of the source of the problem. Emotions repressed for a long time, find a way of coming out in unrelated and overwhelming ways.

Credits: Christian Erfurt

They have a difficult time feeling joy or happiness

Emotional constipation does not only keep sadness and stress buried inside but also keeps you from expressing positive feelings. By distancing yourself from your emotions you deprive yourself from feeling joy or excitement when something good happens.

Credits: Claudia Wolff

Frequent headaches and digestive issues

Repressing emotions especially anger can lead to psychosomatic symptoms and physical ailments such as headaches, chronic cough and digestive issues. Digestive issues like acid reflux, indigestion and IBS are commonly seen in people believed to be emotionally constipated. Similarly unreleased stresses and emotions bounce around in your cranium ( a part of your brain) and cause headaches and migraines.

Credits: Anh Nguyen

Sleep problems

Night is the best time for repressed and undermined feelings to come to the surface. Insomnia, waking up throughout the night, disturbing dreams are all manifestations of not expressing your emotions in the conscious state.

Credits: Kinga Cichewicz

Restless leg syndrome

Neglected and ignored emotions will try to surface in some or the other way. This might lead to the development of restless leg syndrome i.e., the subconscious twitching and bouncing of one or both legs while at rest. The cause of this unique behavior might be your subconscious trying to release the pent-up energy.

In the long run, this set of behaviors involving denial and avoidance of emotions can have serious consequences. Not only are you building a wall around yourself and adversely affecting your personal relations, you are also harming your health.

Once we recognize these signs of emotional constipation, it is imperative to take action to express and release these emotions. All the steps that can be taken for effectively handling your emotions will be discussed in the next article.


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