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How Unresolved Emotions Affect Your Health

21 September 2022

Ever noticed how the memory of something happy that happened to you a years ago can make you feel warm and fuzzy, decades later?

The same thing happens when you recall a traumatic event — only this time, you feel unhappy or worse. Unresolved emotions coming from childhood/past trauma, neglect, loss, anger, grief, abuse and stress can affect our present day health.

A study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2017 suggests that being in a negative emotional state affects the expression of both neurotransmitters and hormones like dopamine, low levels of which are, in turn, associated with major depressive disorder and mood disorders like bipolar disorder.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2011 explains that while people may believe that emotions do not affect the body physiologically, the fact is that the brain is the basis for all mental processes. The brain also runs every other system in the body, so it’s natural that feeling adverse emotions will affect your physical health too. Here are just a few of the effects unresolved emotions can have on your health:

1. Inflammation and pain: A study published in PNAS in 2014 suggests that when your brain tries to process emotions, it activates the cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, skeletomuscular and autonomic nervous systems. This study showed that the effects of negative emotions like anger, fear, disgust, sadness and shame can cause inflammation in the upper body. If uncontrolled or prolonged, this inflammation can turn into persistent pain.

2. Weak immune system: A 2017 study in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience suggests that the emotional and immune systems actually mirror each other. This is also the reason why people with mental disorders often suffer from immunological disorders too. Unresolved negative emotions can cause immunological disturbances and weaken the immune system enough to cause frequent bouts of illnesses or chronic diseases.

3. Cardiovascular issues: Many studies, including one in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, have shown that negative emotions like anger, grief, anxiety & depression can trigger coronary heart disease. This is because not only do these emotions lead to inflammation of the nerves but also to increased blood pressure and other risk factors associated with heart diseases.

4. Risky lifestyle behaviours: Apart from directly affecting your physical health, unresolved emotions can also trigger unhealthy lifestyle practices like smoking, alcohol abuse, binge-eating and anorexia bulimia. Apart from being addictions and disorders, these risky lifestyle behaviours are also forms of self-harm which can have a sudden or cumulative effect on your physical health.

How to deal with unresolved emotions?

I work with clients to help them recognise, process and metabolise unresolved emotions. This is not only important for our mental health, but also our physical health, we’re just never taught this in our culture and mainstream medicine often bypasses this completely!

As someone that has lived experience of this, as well as professional training and clinical experience, please know that you can message me for in complete confidence for further information or support.

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