Unhappy young woman feeling low
Mental Health

Mental health: 3 signs you’re avoiding your emotions, according to a therapist

Are you ignoring your emotions? These are the three signs to look out for.

Avoiding our emotions can sometimes seem like the easier option when we’re struggling to deal with difficult things in our lives.

Whether we’re having issues at work, with a partner or friends, the idea of emotionally “switching off” can come with temporary relief that is much needed but can be detrimental in the long term.

The Renfrew Centre, a residential treatment facility for women based in the US, has taken to TikTok to address the signs that someone may be avoiding their emotions.

In the clip, one of the centre’s licensed therapists breaks down the signs, starting with procrastination.

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The therapist claims procrastination can be a signal that you’re sidestepping your emotions by avoiding the emotion associated with certain tasks.

Next, she highlights intellectualising can be a critical sign, because “analysing situations seems easier than feeling it”.

Lastly, the clip concludes with the third and final sign which is using humour by laughing about something instead of “processing the pain”.

The video, which gained over 169,000 likes, saw many take to the comments to share their experience with this.

“I have deflected so much in the past due to emotional avoidance,” wrote one. “I hardly ever cry and I try to avoid being sad/hurt but now I’m doing trauma work to overcome this.”

Another commented: “I legitimately can’t connect to my emotions at this point and do all of the 3 signs above. Definitely going to try to work through that this year.”

The centre added that these may be signs of emotional avoidance – a way to stop the occurrence of an uncomfortable emotion such as sadness or fear.

“When we feel a really scary uncomfortable emotion coming on, we want to avoid it and that can look like a lot of things,” she says in another clip. “When we repeatedly turn to avoidance strategies, our world gets really small because we get stuck in a loop repeating the same behaviours over and over again. 

“Avoidance can sometimes interfere with the life we want to live and the values we have.”

In a bid to help those overcome this, the Renfrew Centre also shared some tips on how to embrace your feelings.

“When therapists say ‘feel your feelings’ another way to think of it is observe your feelings and chances are you’re probably already doing this at least in part,” she says. 

“Emotions can be broken down into three parts: your thoughts, your physical sensations and your urges and behaviours. I’m willing to bet you’re already really good at noticing at least one component.

“The work is really about trying to tune into those components that are less obvious to you.”

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