7 signs you’re suppressing your emotions (and it’s making you unhappy)

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve experienced a feeling of disconnect between how you feel and how you think you should feel.

Maybe it’s a colleague who always seems to be happy and successful, or a friend who never lets their stress show.

You wonder why you can’t be the same way.

My first encounter with this was a high school friend who always appeared calm and collected, despite juggling many responsibilities.

I tried mirroring his attitude, suppressing my own emotions to maintain an image of tranquility — but it only left me feeling empty and unhappy.

Eventually, I had to confront my own emotional reality.

Navigating through emotional suppression can be challenging, but recognizing the signs is the first step toward a healthier mental state.

Here are seven indicators I wish I’d recognized earlier.

1) You’re often emotionally numb

It’s not uncommon to feel emotionally drained from time to time, especially after periods of high stress or significant events.

However, if you’re frequently finding yourself in a state of emotional numbness, it might be an indicator that you’re suppressing your emotions.

This was something I struggled with during my early years at university.

I was constantly juggling schoolwork, part-time jobs, and social responsibilities, all while trying to maintain a positive appearance.

I thought by ignoring my feelings of stress and tiredness, I could simply power through it all.

But instead, I started feeling emotionally numb, detached, and disconnected from my own life.

The key lesson here is that emotional numbness is often a defense mechanism.

It’s your body’s way of protecting you from being overwhelmed by negative emotions.

While it might seem like a beneficial strategy in the short term, suppressing your emotions in this way can lead to serious consequences in the long run, like chronic stress and even depression.

Understanding this sign is the first step towards acknowledging your suppressed emotions and moving towards a healthier emotional state.

2) You’re quick to brush off your feelings

Think back to the last time someone asked how you were.

Did you automatically respond with, “I’m fine,” even though you weren’t?

I remember when I was going through a difficult breakup in college.

People around me were concerned and often asked how I was doing.

Even though I felt like my world was falling apart, I always responded with, “I’m okay.”

At the time, it felt easier to dismiss my feelings than to confront them.

But this denial was a clear sign that I was suppressing my emotions.

So why do we do this?

Often, it’s a habit we develop as a defense mechanism.

We think that by denying our emotions, we can avoid the pain they bring.

But the reality is, brushing off our feelings only buries them deeper, causing them to fester and potentially grow into a bigger issue.

Recognizing this pattern is crucial.

Instead of dismissing your feelings, try acknowledging them.

While it may be uncomfortable at first, it’s a healthier response that allows you to process your emotions properly.

3) You rely heavily on distractions

Are you constantly finding yourself engrossed in work, social media, or other activities to the point of neglecting your emotional well-being?

This could be a sign that you’re using these distractions as a means to avoid dealing with your emotions.

During my final year of university, I found myself buried in coursework, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities.

I was so busy that I barely had any time to think about how I was actually feeling.

While it felt like I was being productive, in reality, I was using these tasks as a distraction from my emotional turmoil.

The problem with this approach is that it’s merely a temporary fix.

Your suppressed emotions will eventually demand attention, often at the most inconvenient times.

Understanding this behavior is essential.

It’s okay to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life to check in with yourself emotionally.

By doing this, you can better manage your feelings instead of letting them pile up and overwhelm you later.

4) You’re unable to identify what you’re feeling

pic1316 7 signs you're suppressing your emotions (and it's making you unhappy)

You might think that being unable to pinpoint your exact emotions is a normal part of life, especially during challenging times.

But this could be a sign that you’re suppressing your emotions.

I distinctly remember a period in my life when I felt a constant sense of unease.

When asked what was wrong, I couldn’t put a finger on it.

It was as if there was a cloud of confusion between me and my feelings.

This phenomenon is called alexithymia – a term used in psychology to describe a state where one finds it hard to identify and describe emotions in the self.

It’s often linked to emotional suppression.

Recognizing this sign is essential.

It’s okay not to have all the answers immediately, but aim for openness about your emotional state.

Over time, this can lead to greater emotional awareness and better emotional health.

5) You have unexplained physical symptoms

It might come as a surprise, but emotional suppression can often manifest as physical symptoms.

Headaches, stomach issues, or a general sense of fatigue can sometimes be your body’s way of signaling that there are unresolved emotions needing attention.

In my early twenties, I experienced frequent headaches and bouts of fatigue.

I initially attributed them to work-related stress and didn’t think much about it.

However, when these symptoms persisted despite taking rest and proper care, I realized they were not just physical but also linked to my state of mind.

I was holding in a lot of anxiety and stress, which was taking a toll on my body.

Understanding the mind-body connection can provide valuable insight into your emotional wellbeing.

Instead of ignoring these symptoms, use them as a cue to explore what might be going on emotionally.

Remember, your body often knows before your mind does.

Listening to it can lead to better emotional awareness and overall health.

6) Your reactions are disproportionate to the situation

At times, we all overreact to situations.

I recall a particular incident when I snapped at a friend for a minor mistake.

It was a trivial issue, yet my reaction was intense and completely out of line.

After some introspection, I realized that my overreaction wasn’t about the mistake at all.

I was suppressing feelings of stress and frustration from other areas of my life, and they had found an outlet in this minor incident.

It’s important to realize that when we suppress our emotions, they don’t disappear.

They build up and can unexpectedly surface in response to unrelated events.

Taking note of disproportionate reactions can help identify suppressed emotions.

It’s not about blaming yourself for overreacting but about understanding that there might be deeper emotions at play that need addressing.

7) You struggle with close relationships

Close relationships require emotional openness and vulnerability.

During my early adult years. I had friends and even dated, but I always kept people at arm’s length.

I was uncomfortable sharing my feelings, which made it difficult for others to truly understand or connect with me.

As I later learned, my difficulty with close relationships was a sign that I was suppressing my emotions.

By not acknowledging my feelings, I was inadvertently stifling my ability to connect emotionally with others.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s important to recognize this as a potential sign of suppressed emotions.

Meaningful relationships are built on emotional transparency.

Working on expressing your emotions can lead not only to improved emotional health but also to enriched relationships and a deeper understanding of yourself.

Picture of Dania Aziz

Dania Aziz

A spirited lifestyle and love advocate, who loves to explore the two to help herself and others discover what they are really searching for.

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