How Emotional Pain Affects Your Body

While emotional pain is often dismissed as being less serious than physical pain, it is important that it is taken seriously.

Here are four common feelings associated with emotional pain that can impact your health.

Sadness

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Sadness is a natural emotion that is associated with loss and disappointment. However if it doesn't fade with time, it might reflect a treatable condition, depression, that can impact your whole body.

If sadness lasts for more than just a few days and impacts your daily life, it may be necessary to seek out medical intervention.

You should consult with your doctor and be completely honest about any alcohol or drugs you have been using to cope and self-medicate.

Unexpressed Anger

Angry man
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Anger is a basic human emotion. It releases adrenaline, which increases muscle tension and speeds up breathing. This is the ‘fight’ part of the “fight/flight/freeze” response. It can be mobilizing, however if its not adequately coped with, this response can lead to long-term physical consequences. 

Anxiety

Depressed young girl
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As with anger, anxiety, worry or fear releases adrenaline. This generally results in jumpiness, a tendency to startle easily, the inability to relax (the "flight" part of the "flight/flight/freeze" response, or a feeling of being immobilized or stuck (the “freeze” part of the “fight/flight/freeze” response).

In some people, anxiety is a symptom of an anxiety disorder, and psychotherapy or prescription medication can help.

Anxiety can be induced by alcohol or drugs, and quitting alcohol and drugs can often improve the symptoms. Tell your doctor about any alcohol or drug use to ensure you are properly diagnosed and treated.

Shame / Guilt

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Shame and guilt often result in a feeling of “butterflies” or weight in the stomach. Common among people with addictions, shame leads to and is worsened by the need for secrecy. 

If not reduced, prolonged feelings of shame and guilt can lead to physical symptoms. 

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Additional Reading
  • Caudill, M. Managing Pain Before it Manages You. Third Edition. New York: Guildford. 2009.
  • Sadler, J. Pain Relief Without Drugs: A Self-Help Guide for Chronic Pain and Trauma. Third Edition. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2007.