11 Unexpected Ways You Hold Emotional Pain In Your Body
If you're mourning the loss of a loved one or you're struggling to figure out whether to end things with your partner, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the way your pain is affecting your mind. You might be distracted at work or feel suddenly sad while shopping for groceries. But you might be surprised to learn that emotional pain can manifest physically too in a variety of surprising symptoms.
While you may be able to deal with digestive problems or skin issues with external treatments, to really address what's causing these physical symptoms, you have to cope with your emotional pain. "First and foremost, reach out for help and support," Kristin Wilson, MA, LPC, a licensed clinician and vice president of clinical outreach for Newport Academy, tells Bustle. Try spending more time with trusted loved ones, joining a support group with others who can relate to your experience, and working with a mental health professional to uncover and address root causes, she says.
Whether you've recently noticed a ringing in your ears or have been feeling sick to your stomach for no explainable reason, here are some surprising ways that your emotional state may be affecting your body.
1. Change In Body Temperature
If you're feeling extra warm even if your environment is cool, your emotional state may be to blame, Jovica Grey, a licensed mental health counselor and the founder of Grey’s Counseling Services, LLC, tells Bustle. When you are experiencing emotional pain, that turmoil could manifest in feeling extremely hot for no physical reason, she says. In addition to drinking a cool drink or placing a cold washcloth on your forehead, it's also a good idea to confront whatever is making your upset.
2. Hair Shedding Or Breakage
When you're going through an especially rough time, you might notice more hair on your pillow or in your shower drain than usual, LaQuista Erinna, LCSW, owner of owner of THRIVE Behavioral Health & Consulting, LLC, tells Bustle. Hair loss could be due to a number of different health problems, so she says to visit your primary care doctor for an evaluation to rule out any underlying medical conditions before tracing the issue back to emotional stressors.
3. Digestive Problems
"Emotions are physical feelings in the body caused by enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters in the brain and body," Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc, doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, tells Bustle. "When we don’t express our feelings or try to hide or block them this can result in a backlog of these chemical components in the body," she says. Suppressing your emotions like this can lead to digestive issues, reflux, and bloating. In addition to giving yourself permission to express your emotional pain, try incorporating digestion-soothing foods like turmeric tea and bananas into your day.
Tinnitus, a sense of noise or ringing in your ears, is one unusual physical symptom you might notice as a result of emotional pain, Rev. Connie L. Habash, LMFT– a licensed marriage and family therapist, yoga teacher, and interfaith minister, tells Bustle. In her experience with clients, pausing and “listening” to the ringing, with openness and interest in what some deeper part of themselves may be trying to express, can be a powerful way to deal with the issue, she says. As you become aware of feelings that were completely unconscious to you before, you could gain a new perspective on your life by allowing repressed emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and needs to rise to the surface.
5. Unexplained Aches And Pains
If part of your body has been aching for a while and no medications seem to bring you relief, the root cause may be emotional instead of strictly physical, clinical psychologist Dr. Mehwish Mursaleen, tells Bustle. Visit your doctor to make sure that there aren't any physical reasons that you should be in pain, she says. If any test comes back normal, look into visiting with a psychologist or psychiatrist to learn more about somatic pain.
6. Skin Problems
"The brain and the nervous system influence the skin’s immune cells through various chemical messengers and receptors which respond to stress," Dr. Keira Barr, a dual board-certified dermatologist, tells Bustle. Stress and anxiety can manifest physically in a host of ways, such as acne, hair loss, psoriasis, hives, rosacea, and even profuse sweating, she says. In addition to addressing your skin problems through soothing masks or topical treatments, make sure to set aside some time to balance your mind through meditation or reflection.
7. Physical Tics
If you've been experiencing motor tics like sudden shudders of the jaw or a full-body shudder like a dog getting up from a nap, you could have a physical manifestation of emotional pain, Morgan Balavage, a yoga instructor who specializes in working with clients with chronic pain, tells Bustle. To treat both the physical and the emotional symptoms, try yin yoga, she says. "It is an accessible (as in, all bodies can do it) but advanced (as in, for your mind) practice, and can be a beautiful physical release of emotional pain."
8. Nausea And Dizziness
"People don’t realize that emotional pain can cause other non-specific symptoms that are tough to diagnose and are usually associated with a lot of different conditions," Dr. Judy Ho, PhD a triple board-certified clinical, forensic, and neuropsychologist, and author of Stop Self Sabotage, tells Bustle. Nausea and dizziness are two of these non-specific symptoms that could be due to emotional pain, but could also be due to a health problem. "Try to dig deeper and figure out if there is a negative emotion you have been avoiding dealing with," she says. Try relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, listening to music you love, or smelling a favorite scent.
If you're experiencing emotional distress due to a specific event, experience, or person, being faced with that trigger can cause constipation, Parveen Brar, a psychological consultant and certified mental health first aid trainer, tells Bustle. To help calm your mind, try leaning on daily habits such as meditation, journaling, and exercise in addition to talk therapy, she says.
10. Sleep Problems
You might not be surprised to learn that emotional pain can contribute to insomnia, but it can also cause hypersomnia (an inability to stay awake), Dr. Dana Dorfman, PhD, psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch, tells Bustle. To help ease your mind and regulate your sleep patterns, turn to creative outlets like dance, writing, or pottery, she says, as each of these activities offers an opportunity to express yourself.
11. Tingly Tops Of Arms And Hands
A tingling sensation on the tops of your arms and hands can be a direct experience of the fight or flight response, Christina Beck, psychology researcher and head of community development for Supportiv, tells Bustle. "Your muscles are involuntarily tensing to fight, and the change in blood flow causes a tingly sensation," she says. To address this physical sign, let your body know that it isn't in danger by flexing and relaxing your arms. You can also try running your hands under warm water to relax your muscles, Beck says.
Whether you're hurting from an achy shoulder that just won't seem to heal or you're noticing more hair falling out than usual, take a moment to connect with how you're doing emotionally. By recognizing any emotional issues you may be struggling with, you may be able to better address any physical problems.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.