The Cost of Repression

Hypertension and cancer may be linked to avoiding negative feelings

(RxWiki News) The mind-body connection has interested people for centuries with more and more research showing that the two are completely connected.

So how can the mind affect the body?

Freud believed that some people coped with stress by repressing the feelings, and that repression could have negative consequences on both the mind and body.

A recent study looked at this connection, and came to some similar conclusions.

"Take care of both your mental and physical health."

In 2011, Marcus Mund, PhD candidate and Kristin Mitte, PhD, of the Psychology Institute at Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat in Germany, set out to study the relationship between repressive coping and physical disease, specifically cancer, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In an analysis of over 20 previously conducted studies, the researchers found data for nearly seven thousand participants.

The participants were categorized based on their coping style, or the way in which they reacted to negative emotions or stress.

The “repressors” or those having a repressive coping style were defined as people who tried to avoid thinking about negative feelings.

Even though the “repressors” said they were not experiencing stress, their rapid heart rate showed that they were. Their heart rates and other physical signs of stress increased even more so than the people in the other groups.

Once the researchers were able to identify the group of people who tended to repress their negative feelings, they looked at the incidences of disease within the group.

The researchers discovered that a repressor’s risk of developing higher blood pressure increased by 80 percent, and their risk of developing any of the diseases studied increased by 31 percent.

The researchers also noted that repressive coping was linked to having cancer.

Many people use repressive coping to protect themselves from negative feelings, especially stress. It can feel easier to deny the problems exist.

In the long run, though, it may be better to accept and deal with negative feelings for both your mental and physical health.

This study was published in the September edition of Health Psychology. No reports regarding funding or conflicts of interest were made.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2012