Repressed Depression (Emotions)

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Repressed emotions refer to emotions that you unconsciously avoid. These differ from suppressed emotions, which are feelings you purposely avoid because you don’t know exactly how to deal with them. 

Say you and your partner have a fight and decide to break up one evening. You still have to meet with an important client at work the next day, so you decide to suppress, or push aside, your feelings until you get home from that meeting.

Suppression can sometimes be a good short-term solution, as long as you make sure to address those emotions sooner rather than later. 

Repressed emotions, on the other hand, don’t get a chance to be processed. But that doesn’t mean they simply disappear. Instead, they might show up as a range of psychological or physical symptoms.

Why does it happen?

Emotional repression often relates to childhood experiences. 

Much of what children learn about behavior and communication comes from their primary caregivers. 

So, you’ll probably feel pretty comfortable expressing your emotions if your caregivers:

  • frequently talked about their feelings
  • encouraged you to share how experiences made you feel
  • normalized your positive and negative emotional experiences
  • didn’t judge or criticize your emotional expressions

Adults with repressed emotions often feel out of touch or disconnected from their feelings because they had a different childhood experience. 

For example, you might be more likely to repress emotions if your caregivers:

  • rarely showed emotion or talked about their feelings
  • shamed or punished you for expressing your emotions
  • told you your emotions were wrong or denied your experience

What kinds of emotions get repressed?

For the most part, people tend to repress strong emotions, especially those associated with discomfort or other unpleasant experiences.

This includes emotions like:

Notice a pattern? These emotions are often described as negative. It’s common to repress emotions you consider “bad” or believe other people might judge you for expressing. 

Again, this stems back to your childhood. Maybe you grew up hearing things like:

  • “You don’t have any reason to be sad.”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “You should be grateful.” 

Even if your caregivers didn’t specifically invalidate your emotional experience, they still might’ve discouraged you from expressing intense emotions freely by telling you to stop crying or shouting. 

As a result, you began to think of sadness, anger, and disappointment as emotions you shouldn’t have, or at the very least, shouldn’t acknowledge to anyone.

You could feel more in touch with positive emotions, or those considered “normal” and generally accepted by others. It might seem easier to express them if you know they won’t draw criticism, though this isn’t the case for everyone dealing with emotional repression.


Need someone to talk to? Someone is available now at 800-273-8255.

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