Fear of Expressing Emotions or Feelings: Animotophobia
When we feel a strong emotion such as anger or even sadness, we tend to have an emotional outburst, right? These outbursts can be yelling, sobbing, throwing things, and screaming. We react like this because what we feel is quite uncomfortable and painful.
As children, these outbursts can be called “temper tantrums” and children, frankly, are more open with their emotions because they haven’t learned how to suppress them yet. As adults though, these strong overwhelming emotions while uncomfortable, we don’t let ourselves openly express them, like children.
Sometimes, to not give in to our emotions, we can go too far. We tend to run away from them as far as we can. Adults are adept at suppressing their emotions but what we don’t realize is that, in the long run, suppressing our emotions can do more harm than good. But the question is, what causes us to suppress our emotions?
Is it the lack of acceptance? Or something else?
One of the unexpected reasons why we suppress our emotions can be the fear of expressing emotions. When you’re afraid of expressing emotions, it can make you hide or run away from your feelings and emotions.
This fear of expressing emotions can be called “animotophobia”. While it’s not an official term in the DSM-5, this fear can still leave long-lasting effects on your overall wellness.
Below, let’s understand this fear of expressing emotions and how to overcome this fear.
How Does This Fear Affect Your Health?
People who have a phobia of expressing feelings often miss out on living their best lives. This fear of expressing emotions holds them back from accepting the little things in life.
This can affect their relationships, emotional health, mental health, and even physical health because our emotions are stored in our bodies as well. Suppressing them can cause depression, physical aches, and other health issues.
When someone is afraid of their emotions, they often tend to suppress them. Long-term suppression of emotions and feelings can cause issues such as IBS, heart diseases, higher blood pressure, and more.
Plus, when you run away from emotions, it’s more likely that your emotions would come out in an unexpected emotional outburst that would leave you feeling even more drained and exhausted.
Signs You Fear Expressing Emotions
If you suspect that you’re afraid of expressing emotions and feelings, then look out for these signs:
- You have a pessimistic outlook
- You avoid people and social situations
- You struggle to catch a good night’s rest
- You are irritable
- You experience big emotional outbursts
- You often engage in avoidance behaviors
Let’s take a look at some of the potential causes of the phobia of expressing emotions.
Causes Of The Fear Of Expressing Emotions
If you often find yourself wondering, “Why am I scared of my own feelings?” then behind this thought, there might be some reasons.
Experts believe that the fear of emotions could be rooted in trauma or past abuse – emotional, physical, and verbal, etc. Some events such as accidents, loss of a loved one, or even surviving a natural disaster can contribute to the fear of expressing emotions.
When a past trauma is unresolved, it can make an individual scared to relive the experience. Some people might not feel secure enough or may get easily overwhelmed by their emotions which makes them suppress them instead of expressing them. They may also try to avoid situations or events that may make them experience said emotions.
Other times, it could be a childhood experience that may drive how a person handles their emotions. Let’s see an example; If a parent frequently shames or punishes their child for expressing emotions openly, then it could make the child suppress and even fear expressing emotions. It could not make them immediately fear their emotions but it can shape their belief in emotional expression.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Expressing Emotions?
1. Focus On Physical Feelings
It’s difficult to talk about emotions, no matter how simple and uncomplicated the emotions and feelings may be. The best way to stop being afraid of expressing emotions is to focus on your physical feelings instead of emotional expression.
Try to describe how the emotion makes you feel, physically. Notice the sensations in your body as your fear of emotions arises. The more you focus on the physical sensations, the more you can be attuned to your emotions.
2. Try Mindfulness
Another great way to stop being fearful of expressing your emotions is to become more aware of yourself. First, try to understand that it’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling. Accept your emotions because they are valid.
Try to be non-judgmental of your emotions and towards yourself. You can try some quick breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or other gentle mindfulness exercises. This way you can be more comfortable with your emotions instead of being fearful of them.
3. Face Your Fear, Head-On
It’s not easy to face your fears but it can be a great way to overcome the fear. Here, let’s try an exercise; imagine a little scared kid. What would you do to soothe them? You would not ignore them, right?
Unknowingly, that’s what we do with our emotions. Slow down, pause, and acknowledge your fear. Be with it. Listen to what it’s saying. Let your emotions do the talking, for once. When you do this, you’ll begin to understand yourself better and become more intentional in your living.
4. Speak To A Professional
Lastly, the best way to confront your fear of expressing emotions is to speak to a professional and let a therapist guide you through your fear. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most recommended therapy techniques that can help you overcome your fear of emotions. A therapy session can offer a safe space for you to express your emotions. It can also change your belief in emotional expression.
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Author Take on Animotophobia
Emotions can be scary and you may even fear expressing your emotions. However, emotions are what makes us… well, us. They give us an understanding of who we are and what we want. The more you are attuned to your emotions, the less they can control your every move.
With the right tools and therapy, you can learn to become more comfortable with your emotions and eventually express them without hesitation.
Suppressing emotions for a long time can affect your overall wellness and development so don’t let your emotions scare you anymore. Think about your overall wellness and begin your emotional expression journey, today.
I hope this article helps you understand and overcome the fear of expressing emotions or “animotophobia”.
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