The Physical Consequences of Burying Emotions

The Physical Consequences of Burying Emotions

Author: Claudia M. Elsig, MD

Avoiding emotions can put your health at risk

Emotions play a central role in our overall well-being. However, many of us are guilty of burying those emotions deep within ourselves. It’s a coping mechanism we adopt when faced with overwhelming feelings, stress, or trauma. But what we may not realize is that burying these emotions can have profound and often overlooked consequences on our physical health.

A careful exploration of the delicate balance between our emotional and physical selves uncovers the importance of not only recognizing and addressing our buried emotions but also expressing them in healthy ways. 

Emotions and the mind-body connection

Can our emotions make us ill? To date, science has no conclusive evidence to prove that burying emotions causes illness. For example, depression doesn’t cause cancer and repressed anger won’t give you a fever. However, there are clear links between emotional repression and lower immune systems which can lead to illness and worsen the symptoms of many diseases.1

Research from the American Psychological Association has found, “Overwhelmingly, it is psychological, rather than physiological stress, which activates the stress response chronically enough to have disease consequences. The power of purely psychological states to alter stress-related physiology implies that thought and emotion can make us sick.”2

The stress response and hidden emotions

The human body’s stress response is designed to help us cope with threats and challenges. When we encounter a stressful situation, whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological, our body’s “fight or flight” response is triggered. This response releases stress hormones, flooding our bodies with cortisol and adrenaline, preparing us to either confront (fight) the perceived threat or escape (flight) from it. While the “fight or flight” response is vital in emergencies, the problem arises when our stress response is continually activated due to suppressed emotions.

When we bury our emotions, we inadvertently keep our stress response in a chronic state of activation. Unresolved emotional turmoil becomes a persistent stressor, and our body remains on high alert. This ongoing stress can lead to a wide range of physical health issues.

Dan Brennan, MD, explains that “overall emotional and mental health is directly linked to your physical health. Repressed anger or other negative emotions may be tied to a higher risk for things like: high blood pressure, heart disease, infections, and generalized pain.”3

Immune system impact

Our immune system defends us against viruses, bacteria, and other invaders. However, what’s often underestimated is the profound influence of our emotional well-being on its functioning. Emotional repression can ultimately weaken our immune system’s defenses causing physical consequences.4

Over time, these buried emotions can become chronic, leading to sustained stress responses. When the body is in a constant state of stress, it releases an excess of the stress hormone cortisol, which, over time, can hinder immune cell activity and weaken our body’s ability to fight off illnesses. Chronic emotional distress, often associated with the repression of feelings, has been linked to increased vulnerability to infections and delayed healing. On the other hand, positive emotional well-being, including the expression and processing of emotions, can enhance immune responses.5

Psychosomatic symptoms and burying emotions

The mind and body share an intricate connection and this becomes strikingly evident when unexpressed emotions find their way into our physical well-being. Suppressed emotions can act as silent drivers of psychosomatic symptoms, whereby emotional distress manifests as real physical ailments. For instance, chronic anxiety, unresolved grief, or persistent stress can often lead to a range of psychosomatic illnesses such as tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia, and even skin disorders like eczema.6

Scientific research has provided compelling evidence for this connection and these conditions serve as tangible evidence of the powerful mind-body connection. Understanding the link between emotions and physical health is crucial for addressing psychosomatic symptoms effectively. 

Chronic conditions and emotional suppression

When we consistently push down our emotions, we subject ourselves to a continuous state of psychological and physiological tension. Recent research has uncovered the implications of emotional suppression and a link to chronic health issues. Studies by the National Institute of Health reveal, “Emotion regulation, the experiencing, processing, and modulating of emotional response, is necessary to manage the emotional stressors common in patients with chronic illness. Overwhelming emotional demands deplete the resources needed for everyday self-care management of chronic disease, contributing to poor health outcomes.”7

These studies have shown how unaddressed emotional distress can significantly worsen the prognosis of individuals with chronic illnesses and underscore the need for holistic health care, emphasizing the importance of addressing emotional well-being alongside physical health. 

Coping mechanisms and healthy emotional expression: the significance of holistic well-being in our lives

Emotions, buried or not, are an integral part of the human experience. Healthy coping mechanisms can provide a constructive outlet to effectively deal with those emotions, rather than continue to bury them and suffer the consequences. This learning helps us navigate life’s challenges and paves the path to our overall well-being.
But how do we get there?

One such strategy is research-based mindfulness meditation—the act of acknowledging our emotions without judgment, thus promoting self-awareness and emotional regulation.

Margaret Cullen, a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) teacher has found mindfulness-based interventions (MBI’s) to be extremely beneficial to her clients, many of whom suffered from stress-related illnesses. Her findings showed that individuals who practiced MBI’s from “Green Berets, veteran police detectives, and neurosurgeons” all experienced “better sleep, increased job satisfaction, closer connections to colleagues, and reduced headaches”. Cullen teaches her clients to uncover their challenging emotions like anger and fear and explore them both cognitively and viscerally, “creating increased tolerance for—and reduced interference with—the normal flow of these constantly changing phenomena”.

Scientific research consistently demonstrates the benefits of these and other strategies such as therapy, regular exercise, eating healthy, well-balanced meals, and getting the recommended amount of sleep.9

Mindfulness practices, for instance, have been linked to reduced stress levels and improved emotional well-being. By incorporating healthy coping mechanisms and embracing challenging emotional expression, it is possible to achieve a state of emotional well-being, ultimately leading to a healthier and happier life. 

CALDA Clinic is here to help

CALDA Clinic specializes in trauma treatment to help you overcome buried emotions that prevent you from achieving your true potential and living your healthiest life. If you’re struggling with physical consequences due to buried emotions, it’s time to address the root cause. Effective emotional regulation is essential for coping and functioning in everyday life, and CALDA Clinic can guide you on this journey.

CALDA Clinic offers a road to recovery in a private, luxurious rehabilitation center where you can be assured of a tailor-made approach to your specific needs. Our team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists are here to ensure you receive only the best care and services.

Contact us for an exploratory call and find out how we can best help you on your path to a healthier life.


  1. Healthline, March 2020  Let It Out: Dealing with Repressed Emotions. [Online: accessed 5 September 2023]

  1. American Psychological Association, 2007. Stress, Stress-Related Disease, and Emotional Regulation. [Online: accessed 5 September 2023]

  1. Web MD, October 2021 What to Know About Repressed Emotion. [Online: accessed 5 September 2023]

  1. International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, February 2019. Consequences of Repression of Emotion: Physical Health, Mental Health and General Well Being. [Online: accessed 5 September 2023]

  1. Immunol Allergy Clinic North America, February 2012. The Impact of Psychological Stress on Wound Healing: Methods and Mechanisms. [Online: accessed 5 September 2023]

  1. Psychology Today, January 2022 5 Symptoms of Repressed Anger. [Online: accessed 5 September 2023]

  1. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice, January 2017. Emotion Regulation in Chronic Disease Populations: An Integrative Review. [Online: accessed 6 September 2023]

  1. Greater Good Magazine of Berkley Edu, January 2020 . How to Regulate Your Emotions Without Suppressing Them. [Online: accessed 6 September 2023]
  2. Centers for Disease Control, November 2021 Coping With Stress. [Online: accessed 6 September 2023]