Emotional Catharsis: What Is It & How To Emotionally Express Yourself Without Having A Breakdown

Last Update on April 30, 2021 : Published on May 2, 2021
Emotional Catharsis: What Is It & How To Emotionally Express Yourself Without Having A Breakdown

Have you ever experienced sudden crying in your life? A time where you suddenly started crying and couldn’t seem to stop? Or did you ever explode in uncontrollable anger?

These experiences are a part of an occurrence called ‘emotional catharsis’ in psychology. In layman’s terms, this phenomenon can be called an emotional expression of feelings that cause frustration, stress, anxiety, etc.

In this blog, we’ll explore what emotional catharsis in psychology is, what are some healthy emotional catharsis techniques, and why this emotional expression is good for us.

What Is Emotional Catharsis?

What Is Emotional Catharsis

Emotional catharsis is a process where we express our emotions as they are. Stress, anxiety, anger, fear, and trauma can cause us to feel intense emotions. These emotions build up over time and at a certain point in our lives, these emotions become overwhelming.

These overwhelming emotions can cause you to feel as if you’ll “explode” if you don’t release them.

The term “catharsis” comes from the Greek word “katharsis” which means purification or cleansing. This catharsis aims to bring out some kind of positive emotion or change in a person’s life. Emotional catharsis, however, involves expressing emotions in their raw form.

Related: How To Release Emotions Stuck In Your Body & Relieve Pain

Catharsis In Psychology

Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer first used the term ‘catharsis’ to describe a therapeutic process. Breuer, in his treatment, had his patients recall their traumatic experiences under hypnosis. Later, he found that his patients found relief from the symptoms troubling them by consciously expressing repressed emotions.

The term ‘catharsis’ is often used to describe the experience of looking for closure. A person going through work stress might experience a cathartic moment that helps them release the tension and frustration and move on.

While used more traditionally in psychoanalytic therapy, this term can also be used to describe an emotional moment that brings forth a positive change in a person’s life.

Also Read: Master Your Mood Swings: Learn the Causes, Red Flags, and Ways to Tame Them

Healthy Emotional Catharsis Techniques

Emotional catharsis can be done via therapy but apart from that, there are some healthy ways to achieve emotional catharsis without having a mental or an emotional breakdown.

1. Physical Exercise

Physical Exercise

Sometimes all you need to do to feel emotionally better is to physically release the tension that’s built up in your mind and body. Go for a walk, run or jog, do some jumping jacks, or just do some physical exertion. One of the best ways to achieve emotional catharsis is to give martial arts a try. Martial arts can be a little pretend aggressive exercise that can help you release your repressed emotions.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is another form of relaxation therapy that involves tightening your muscles and relaxing them, intentionally. PMR aims to release the tension from your muscles while helping you relax those tensed muscles one at a time.

For emotional catharsis, using your body and muscles is a way to release emotional tension from your body as well as physical tension.

Related: Best Relaxation Techniques To Combat Stress, Anxiety, and More

3. Making Noise

Making Noise

Sometimes you need more than just “walking it off”. One emotional catharsis technique that I’ve seen my friends do is screaming at the top of their lungs into a pillow. Weird, isn’t it? But it works! When you can’t put a name to emotion and it’s making you feel uncomfortable, scream into a pillow.

Another way, to express your emotions is to sing. Singing can be cathartic as well. Pick out a song that speaks to you and sing – doesn’t matter how you do it – just sing.

Related: Dance Movement Therapy: A Beautiful Emotional & Mental Support

4. Expressive Writing

Expressive Writing

Writing is an effective way to heal one’s mental and emotional health. Whether it’s writing in a journal or writing something fictional, expressive writing is another healthy way by which you can express your repressed emotions without having a breakdown. Expressive writing can help you gain insight into your past traumatic experiences and release repressed emotions.

5. Psychodrama

Psychodrama is a kind of therapy that involves acting out past events that you’ve found difficult in coping with. Acting out can allow you to reassess a previous experience and let go of the pain associated with that experience.

Related: Alexithymia: Inability To Express Emotions | Everything You Need To Know

6. Practicing Yoga

Practicing Yoga

Yoga is a combination of movements and breathwork. One such breathwork that can feel purifying and calm is called ‘Breath Of Fire’. This yoga breathing technique involves rapid and forceful breathing to help you calm. Another technique is called ‘Holotropic Breathing’ which involves breathing fast.

‘Rebirthing Breathing’ is another technique that is used by professionals to help in the release of repressed emotions.

7. Talking It Out

Talking It Out

Discussing with someone you trust can also be an amazing way to achieve emotional release. Either with a friend or your therapist, talking or discussing your problem can help you gain insight into the situation from a different perspective.

Please remember that expressing your feelings and emotions can be risky and can leave you feeling raw and vulnerable. If you’re concerned about expressing your emotions on your own, you can always reach out to a mental health professional for guidance.

One of the downsides of emotional catharsis is that while it may relieve the pent-up frustration and tension, it might also resurface some negative emotions and behaviors and can increase the risk of emotional breakdown.

Related: Understanding Your Emotions Inside Out With the Emotion Wheel: FEAR

Expressing Emotions Is Important

Expressing Emotions Is Important

Emotions are a huge part of our human experience and cannot be ignored – even if they are negative. They make us who we are. Catharsis is a process where we relive a traumatic experience but it does not make us weak. Expressing emotions is important because it helps us take a step toward accepting the pain and reality of our lives.

Emotional catharsis happens when we have bottled up our emotions for a long time and then the bottle suddenly breaks. It is inevitable but necessary. Sometimes we need to break down to feel good and that’s okay.

Catharsis can help us deal with the difficult emotions that we find ourselves unable to deal with. This emotional release and expression is an important technique if you’re coping with grief, fear, depression, and anxiety.

Also Read: Emotional Wellness: Ways To Improve Your Emotional Health

I hope this article helped you understand what emotional catharsis in psychology means, why emotional catharsis is good for us, and healthy emotional catharsis techniques you can practice. For more information, you can write to us at info@calmsage.com.

“The good thing about crying, I’d realized, was the catharsis you felt when everything finally came out. It was as though I’d cried tears of poison; a poison that didn’t have to be inside me anymore.” – Jeremy Jenkins

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.


  1. Vaishali

    Thanks for this guidance, I really needed catharsis, emotional release

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