Emotion is not just a pretty word! How we think and feel directly affects how we live.
The conventional concepts of medicine and healing say that health is associated with lifestyle, genetics and exposure to infection. But in addition to these factors, there is a solid correlation between your emotional state and your health.
Emotions affect your personal well-being, who you are as an individual, your communication skills and your position in society.
Dealing with emotions, particularly negative feelings, is crucial for your survival. Emotions that are kept inside may eventually burst into a disaster in the long run. So, it is always important to vent them out.
Good emotional health is a rare phenomenon these days. Negative emotions like anxiety, stress, fear, anger, jealousy, hatred, doubt and impatience can affect your health to a great extent.
Certain incidents like getting fired from a job, going through a tumultuous marriage, experiencing monetary issues or coping with the death of a loved one can be detrimental and wreak havoc on your mental and emotional well-being, and in turn take a toll on your health.
Here are the top 10 ways that emotions harm your health.
Anger is defined as an intense feeling in response to feeling frustrated, hurt, disappointed or threatened. If addressed quickly and expressed in a healthy way, anger is good for your health. But most of the time, anger is detrimental to your health.
In particular, anger can affect your reasoning ability and cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Anger ramps up the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction in the body, thus leading to an excess secretion of stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. This causes the brain’s amygdala (an area involved with experiencing emotions) to overreact, and it pushes more blood to the frontal lobe (the area in charge of reasoning).
The excess blood in the reasoning area can disrupt your thinking process. This is why people say that “anger is blinding”. It can lead you to throw your phone, laptop or anything you are carrying at that moment.
Moreover, anger leads to tightening of the blood vessels, resulting in a spike in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. If this happens frequently, it causes wear and tear on your artery walls.
A 2000 study published in Circulation reports that proneness to anger places normotensive middle-aged men and women at significant risk for coronary heart disease morbidity and death, independent of the established biological risk factors.
A 2014 study published in the European Heart Journal concluded that there is a higher risk of cardiovascular events shortly after two hours following an outburst of anger.
Another 2014 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology demonstrated the divergent effect of anger on cardiovascular disease and concluded that anger is associated with a more cardiotoxic autonomic and hemodynamic profile.
A recent 2015 study published in the same journal reports that the risk of a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours following a burst of intense anger. This analysis was made after investigating the link between acute emotional triggers and high risk of severe cardiac episodes.
Anger brings a temporary burst of energy that blinds us and blocks the brain area that helps us distinguish right from wrong.
Moreover, it tends to slow down wound healing by about 40 percent, due to the high cortisol reactivity, according to 2008 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Anger also causes an increase in the levels of cytokines (immune molecules that trigger inflammation), which increases the risk of developing arthritis, diabetes and cancer.
For anger management, include regular exercise, learn relaxation techniques and even take help of counseling.
Chronic worrying can trigger a host of health problems.
It affects the spleen and weakens the stomach. It causes changes in the functions of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin. So, when you worry a lot, your body receives chemicals that guide it to respond with an upset or weak stomach.
Worrying or obsessing about a certain issue leads to problems like vomiting, diarrhea, stomach troubles and other chronic medical issues. Excess worrying is also linked to chest pain, high blood pressure, weakened immunity and early aging.
Moreover, worrying too much about a certain thing puts a great amount of pressure on the muscles in the stomach, which in turn places pressure on the stomach. Any pressure on the stomach changes the way your stomach feels. For instance, you might have experienced situations when you have had butterflies in your stomach due to excess worrying.
Worrying too much is also bad for your personal relationships.
A 2011 study led by a Case Western Reserve University faculty member in psychology reports that worrying can be so intrusive and obsessive that it can interfere in the person’s life and endanger the health of social relationships.
At the same time, worry may also make you absent minded or neglectful of your health. Excessive worry disturbs your peace of mind, making it harder to enjoy sound sleep. Sleep disturbance can take a toll on your health in many ways.
3. Sadness or Grief
Out of several emotions that one goes through in life, sadness is the longest-lasting emotion.
Sadness or grief weakens the lungs, causing fatigue and shortness of breath.
It disturbs the easy flow of your breath by narrowing the passageway in the bronchial tubes. When you are filled with grief or sorrow, your breath cannot flow in and out of your lungs easily, thus leading to asthma attacks or various other bronchial conditions.
A 2003 report in Acupuncture Today reports that sadness comes from the heart, damages the lungs, then comes back to damage the heart. If the lungs are truly damaged, one needs to look for other signs of lung qi or yin deficiency, such as coughing, shortness of breath, etc.
Depression and melancholy also ruin your skin and can even cause constipation and a low blood oxygen count. Also, people who are depressed tend to gain or lose weight more easily, and are even easily addicted to drugs or other harmful substances.
When feeling sad and distressed, do not hold back your tears. Letting them flow helps release the emotion. Interestingly, emotional tears have actually been found to contain stress hormones and neurotransmitters associated with stress.
Everyone feels and reacts to stress in different ways. Mild stress can be good for your health and can help you perform better.
However, when stress is excessive, it can lead to high blood pressure, asthma, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
In fact, stress is a leading contributor to heart disease. Stress causes an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Plus, it encourages unhealthy habits and behaviors such as smoking, physical inactivity and overeating. All these factors may damage the artery walls and can cause heart problems.
Stress manifests itself through symptoms like migraines, grinding your teeth, heart palpitations, light-headedness, exhaustion, insomnia, nausea and a decreased or increased appetite.
In fact, stress can lead to numerous other health conditions, including:
- Asthmatic conditions
- Excessive hair loss and even baldness
- Mouth ulcers and excessive dryness
- Mental problems, such as insomnia, headaches, personality changes and irritability
- Cardiovascular disease and hypertension
- Spasmodic pains in the neck and shoulders, musculoskeletal aches, lower back pain, and various minor muscular twitches and nervous tics
- Skin outbreaks, such as eczema and psoriasis
- Unhealthy reproductive system, leading to menstrual disorders and recurrent vaginal infections in women and impotence and premature ejaculation among men
- Diseases of the digestive tract including gastritis, stomach and duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis and irritable colon
Loneliness is an emotion that can cause a person to cry and go into deep melancholy. This creates disharmony in the lungs and blocks the proper flow of blood and oxygen from circulating throughout the body.
In fact, loneliness is increasingly becoming a serious public health hazard.
It may also be just as dangerous as a sudden outburst of anger. When you are lonely, your brain secretes more stress hormones like cortisol, which can cause depression. This may further affect your blood pressure level and sleep quality.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Aging and Health reports that loneliness was associated with higher odds of having a mental health problem among older adults.
Another 2016 study published in Gerontology highlights the direct, indirect and moderated effects of loneliness on health that urgently need to be addressed. The study also highlights the association between loneliness and cognitive decline in old age and the extent to which such decline is reversible through intervention.
A 2015 study published in Heart reports loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. However, further studies are needed to investigate whether interventions targeting loneliness and social isolation can help prevent these problems.
Not only is loneliness linked to heart and mental problems, it can even harm your immune system. People who are lonely are more likely to produce inflammatory compounds in response to stress, which can weaken your immunity.
Fear is one emotion that can practically finish off your self-confidence, morale, belief and happiness. Fear leads to anxiety, which can deplete your kidneys, adrenal glands and sometimes even your reproductive system.
A situation of fear causes a drop in the energy flow in your body and forces the body to contract for self-protection, leading to a drop in your breathing rate and blood circulation, which further causes a condition of stagnation in your core and thus your hands and feet are literally frozen with fear.
Moreover, when you experience fear, your kidney is affected the most. This is because the part of your brain that controls the kidneys slows down. It leads to frequent urination and various other concerns related to your renal health.
Also, fear causes your adrenal glands to secrete more stress hormones, which have further devastating effects on the body.
The condition of extreme fear causes pain and disease in your adrenal glands, kidneys and lower back as well as urinary tract disorders. In children, this emotion can be expressed through bed-wetting, which is closely linked to anxiety and insecurity.
Shock is an expression of trauma caused by an unexpected situation that throws you off your feet, leaving you unable to cope with it.
Sudden shock can disrupt the body’s natural equilibrium, causing hyperarousal and fear. Even the nervous system gets “stuck”.
Shock is debilitating, especially to the kidneys and heart. The traumatic reaction in the body releases excess adrenaline from the adrenal glands that rests on the top of the kidneys. This in turn causes the heart to respond with palpitations, insomnia, stress and anxiety.
Shock usually occurs in the brain and can actually change the structure of the brain. It may alter the area of convergence of the frontal cortex (emotional brain) and survival brain.
Physical health effects of emotional trauma or shock may include lack of energy, pale skin, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, eating and sleeping issues, sexual dysfunction and chronic pain.
8. Impatience and Hate
The emotions of hatred and impatience can affect your intestines and heart health, leading to chest pain, hypertension and palpitations.
Hatred or impatience causes you to react in a manner that releases stress hormones in your body, which further contribute to raised blood pressure and abnormal heart rate.
A 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that both impatience and hostility increase young adults’ long-term risk of developing high blood pressure. The more intense the behaviors, the greater the risk.
A 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed the genetic markers associated with cellular aging and concluded that people who are impatient face a greater risk of biological decline than those who are a little more easy-going.
Being impatient is also bad for your liver. The condensed molecules from breath exhaled from verbal expressions of hatred contain toxins that can damage the liver and gall bladder.
9. Jealousy and Envy
Envy, frustration and jealousy directly hit your brain, gall bladder and liver.
A 2010 study published in Emotion studied romantic couples who were separated from each other via a curtain. These men and women were made to watch a computer screen and rate the attractiveness of images on the screen. Halfway through the study, the women were told that their male counterparts had been asked to rate the attractiveness of other women on their screens.
The researchers then observed the women’s reactions and concluded that the women who proved to be most jealous experienced the highest levels of distraction. This timely impairment in vision occurred only when the women thought that their partners were rating the attractiveness of other women.
Thus, jealousy draws your attention away from all other things and toward itself. Hence, your impaired thinking and seeing ability causes you to miss things that appear right in front of you.
Jealousy creates symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, which further result in overproduction of adrenaline and noradrenaline in the blood.
Moreover, jealousy has a negative impact on your gall bladder. Excess production of hormones in the body leads to stagnation of blood in the liver, which results in imbalanced production of bile in the gall bladder. This causes hampered detoxification; weakened immunity; insomnia; increased blood pressure, heart rate and adrenaline levels; high cholesterol; and impaired digestion.
During jealously, the sympathetic nervous system buckles, which in turn can speed up the heart and cause a spike in blood pressure.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. Acute anxiety can increase your breathing and heart rates, concentrating the blood flow to your brain where you need it. This can be good for your health.
However, if anxiety becomes a part of life, it can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.
In fact, anxiety is characterized by physical symptoms like pain, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness or dizziness that have no apparent physical cause.
Gastrointestinal complaints and anxiety frequently go hand-in-hand. Anxiety affects the stomach, spleen and pancreas, thus leading to issues like improper digestion, constipation, and ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the large intestine).
Anxiety disorders also put you at a greater risk for developing a number of chronic medical conditions.
A 2000 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that negative emotions influence the development of coronary heart disease. The study claimed that anxiety was the most common factor involved in the onset of heart problems, whereas anger had moderate effects on the heart.