People who hide their feelings may be at risk of several mental health conditions. It can also affect relationships and life span.
People may hide their feelings for several reasons. Yet hiding emotions can have negative effects on a person’s psychological well-being.
The terms “emotions” and “feelings” mean slightly different things.
Emotions are how a person feels about something and how their body reacts. A person’s emotions engage with the world. Feelings are how a person subjectively experiences emotions and how they give meaning to them. They differ for everyone.
This article discusses why people hide their feelings. It also gives tips for how to stop hiding feelings.
People may hide their feelings as part of their defense or coping mechanisms.
One defense mechanism that reacts to uncomfortable feelings is avoidance. It may make an individual dismiss or hide negative feelings. It may also make an individual avoid people, places, or situations associated with uncomfortable feelings.
One coping mechanism is emotional suppression. Emotional suppression is when a person hides or avoids feelings on purpose.
People may consciously hide their feelings for several reasons, including the following.
To avoid showing weakness
People may hide feelings to avoid showing weakness or vulnerability to others. Some people may believe that showing negative emotions can lead to others seeing them as weak.
To avoid being hurt
People may hide feelings to avoid interpersonal conflict or conflict with partners in relationships. People may not express emotions due to the belief that it will help to maintain a stable relationship,
Lack of confidence
People may hide feelings if they do not feel safe expressing their opinions and feelings. They may also do so if they lack confidence in them.
Hiding or ignoring emotions can cause people negative mental or physical health effects.
In one 2016 study, researchers analyzed historical studies of hiding emotions. They found that hiding negative emotions could increase a person’s risk of:
- depression over time
Older research from 1996 suggests that if a person hides their feelings for negative emotions, they:
- will not have relief from the experience of those emotions
- are unlikely to feel better
Researchers believe hiding feelings can make a person’s emotions more intense.
The authors of a 2019 article summarized research into hiding emotions. They noted that suppressing emotional responses to feelings could make them more severe or intense.
However, their findings were based on historical science and research. They also noted that not all experts agreed.
People who suppress their emotions
Strain on relationships
Researchers who studied emotional suppression in relationships found that it can interfere with a relationship’s:
These factors can put a strain on people’s abilities to manage a healthy relationship. The researchers found that this was true for people who suppressed emotions or if their partner did.
Hiding feelings or suppressing emotions may shorten a person’s life. A 2013 study looked at medical data for 729 people over 12 years. The data included information on emotional suppression and how some people had fatal conditions.
After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that suppressing emotions may shorten a person’s life from various causes, including cancer. However, the researchers note that this data is not conclusive and more studies need to be done in diverse populations.
Read about emotional health and well-being.
Expressing emotions and feelings can be important for a person’s:
- physical health
- mental health
- general well-being
People can use various methods to help them manage and express feelings.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing awareness on the present moment and current surroundings. It can help people avoid negative or automatic habits and responses.
Using mindfulness, a person learns to observe their thoughts, emotions, and other present experiences without judgment or reaction. Several therapies include mindfulness, such as:
These therapies may help a person stop hiding their feelings. In a 2019 study, researchers found that practicing mindfulness for 15 minutes per day, 7 days per week, helped people:
- improve how they processed emotions, including:
- the intensity of their emotions
- remembering emotions
- avoid emotional attention bias, or focusing on negative emotions more than positive ones
Share feelings honestly
Explaining openly and honestly how a person’s feelings are affecting their life may help others in their life to understand. People may be able to honestly confide their thoughts and feelings with a family member or trusted friend.
Talk about feelings
People may be more comfortable talking with friends and family first rather than professionals. People closest to a person can be a valuable source of support.
An individual may find that over time they find it difficult to overcome the habit and pattern of hiding feelings.
A mental health professional may be able to help a person uncover the reasons they hide their emotions. They can also give advice and suggest ways for individuals to handle their emotions, express them, and find healthy communication and conflict-resolution skills.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides a webpage outlining
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.
People may hide their feelings for various reasons. There can be negative mental and physical health results from hiding feelings over time.
However, people can stop hiding their feelings through various methods. Mental health professionals can also help people avoid suppressing emotions and feelings.