Psychology: How our body tells us that we are suppressing our feelings

Sometimes our body urgently wants to tell us something – but we don’t listen. We spoke to a therapist about the power of suppressed feelings and what symptoms we use to recognize them.

We haven’t had an easy year. And it’s the second time we’ve said that. The beginning of the 2020s was a turbulent time for most people, one would be inclined to say almost everyone due to the pandemic situation. Some have come through the changes better, others less well. However, one thing we can say with certainty is that they have shaped us. Just as different stages of life always do, pandemic or not.

We often notice the influence of external factors with a time delay. We live, but only feel later. Especially in extreme situations, you often hear people say that they are “okay”. Because then the body is far too busy functioning. What comes much later is processing. For this we need rest. If this never comes, it can happen that we always suppress or repress feelings because they don’t suit us at the moment. This process often only happens subconsciously. However, we can consciously feel the symptoms that can indicate suppressed feelings. Because sooner or later, whether we like it or not, they make themselves felt.

Andrea vorm Walde is experiencing this “later” in her practice. She is a therapist, coach and psychological consultant in Hamburg and is currently receiving a lot of visitors: “More people are showing up at the practice now than during the entire Corona period,” she tells me in our conversation. That’s hardly surprising for them, because we’re only now starting to calm down: “Now the post-processing happens.”

The power of suppressed feelings

Our interview will be about the power of suppressed feelings. At the beginning, however, we will discuss something elementary that we should base every assessment of symptoms on: Serious and persistent complaints belong in a doctor’s office. “A good doctor would always take both into account – physical and psychological causes,” assures Andrea vorm Walde. Of course, all physical causes should always be ruled out before attributing them to the psyche.

However, if an organic illness has been ruled out, it may be worthwhile to listen to your body better. In particular, people who are always focused on performance instead of dealing with their mental life tend to repress feelings, Andrea explains to me. It would often affect those “who are driven by perfectionism”. Or those who care about others rather than themselves.

But how do I know that I have something to work on? Andrea primarily distinguishes between physical and mental complaints in her patients.

Physical symptoms

“Often physical feedback actually comes. And you shouldn’t forget: the body only responds very late. You don’t have a problem yesterday and tomorrow your body tells you, ‘Hey, something is wrong here’. First of all, the soul would try itself “to make itself noticeable. If it is ignored, the body comes,” says Andrea. His calls for attention can manifest themselves in numerous symptoms. She mentions the “full range” of:

  • sleep disorders
  • Back pain and headaches
  • Tensions
  • stomach pain and
  • fatigue

Sometimes you can catch yourself formulating your own complaints: “Neck pain, for example – you always say ‘there’s something in my neck’, that’s actually the case. There are several such sayings, you feel bile coming up, you “There’s something in your stomach. These are all old findings that the body reacts to certain things,” explains Andrea.

Mental symptoms

But then there is still the emotional side. Changes in mood play a role here: “Classic psychological signs would be feeling increasingly sad and other mild, typical depression symptoms,” says Andrea and names the following:

  • sadness
  • Lack of drive and motivation
  • Lack of concentration
  • forgetfulness
  • Fear

Just because you feel these feelings from time to time doesn’t mean you’re in a deep depression. However, mild, depressive moods can appear quickly – and are easily treatable if you address them, reassures Andrea. By the way, she recommends seeking professional help. If you recognize early enough that something is bothering you, you can talk about it with friends or your partner. “But if at some point you notice that I’m no longer sleeping through the night. I always have a headache. Then you have to realize that what’s weighing on your soul has been playing a role for years,” she explains and advises one Psychotherapy.

Regardless of this, you can – and should – do something good for yourself. Things like exercise and fresh air are essential. When it comes to the classics, such as gratitude journals, yoga or exercise, you should listen to your gut feeling as to whether you really enjoy these things: “For a perfectionist, for example, having to do that in the evening just becomes another stress factor,” Andrea warns and encourages you to find your own way. Exercise can also mean dancing to your favorite music in the living room: “These are all little things that are worth getting up for.”


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