Five Signs That You're Emotionally Inhibited

Emotional inhibition can make you indifferent in the face of situations that, under normal conditions, would move or excite you. Does this sound like you? Do you find it better to hide your emotions instead of expressing them?
Five Signs That You're Emotionally Inhibited
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 08 February, 2023

If you’re emotionally inhibited, you neglect, repress, or stifle the possibility of experiencing your own emotions. You do it because you think that it’s a mistake to feel. You see it as an obstacle or an expression of weakness or a lack of something.

Often, emotional inhibition has its roots in childhood. Indeed, if you’re emotionally inhibited, it’s highly likely that you grew up in a family of people with the same kinds of personalities. In this kind of environment, your expression of emotions will have probably been despised, ridiculed, ignored, or even punished.

If you’re emotionally inhibited, you also have difficulties relating in a genuine way, both with yourself and others. This often leads you to feelings of isolation. In addition, you’ll lead an extremely dull and unemotional life. So, how do you recognize if you’re suffering from this condition? Here are five signs:

Most neurotypical people are emotional creatures by nature, which means that emotion wells up naturally from the body in reaction to needs, relationships, and events. But, at a young age, you may have had to adjust to a situation where the outward expression of emotion was ignored or punished.”

-Michelle Quirk-

A sad woman who's emotionally inhibited
Emotional inhibition prevents a genuine and deep relationship with ourselves.

1. Feelings of emptiness or excessive seriousness

If you’re emotionally inhibited, you’ll often have the feeling that everything and everyone is the same. Every day feels identical to you, you don’t recognize them as good or bad. Your sensitivity is completely dulled. Moreover, if you experience the slightest hint of emotion, you suffocate it.

You also might feel empty. However, you won’t pay attention to this feeling. In fact, you have a tendency to think that emotionality is only a manifestation of a lack of seriousness in the face of life. You believe that you must behave in a cold and rigid manner.

2. Avoiding emotional situations 

Emotional inhibition leads you to feel a certain contempt for the expression of affection and any manifestations of sadness, joy, or anger. However, there are inevitably spaces, such as social gatherings, group dynamics, parties, and other events, in which emotion prevails.

Consequently, you seek to avoid any situations in which emotion is the protagonist. If you can’t avoid them, you’ll come across to others as stiff, tense, and uncomfortable. In fact, you find these kinds of experiences really unpleasant.

3. Tension and detachment 

If you’re emotionally inhibited, you put up strong obstacles to being intimate with others. Your relationships are likely to be stereotyped and often reduced to exchanges merely for the sake of protocol. You don’t allow others into your world, nor do you open your heart to anyone.

If you do start a relationship, it’s because you see it as convenient or appropriate. However, you remain detached and will most likely feel tense if the relationship starts to get too serious. In effect, you’re waging a battle within yourself, between your desire to be intimate with your partner and your refusal to do so.

4. The need to hide emotions

Obviously, if you’re emotionally inhibited, you experience great problems admitting how you feel, as you’re afraid of rejection. For this reason, given the impossibility of eradicating your feelings, you choose to hide them instead.

However, you may not only hide your emotions from others, but also from yourself. Furthermore, you may reach a point where you can’t quite identify what you’re feeling. You view emotion as synonymous with risk and that’s why you avoid it at all costs.

Friends talking in the office
If you’re emotionally inhibited, you often avoid emotional contact with others, but also with yourself.

5. Being moved only by fiction

If you’re emotionally inhibited, you tend to show extreme sensitivity to situations or stimuli that aren’t really important to others. For example, you might cry when watching an emotional commercial.

In fact, these types of fictitious situations that don’t involve any risk for you because they’re so impersonal, often manage to tear down your armor. You might find yourself bursting into tears like a child when you’re watching a romantic comedy, or trembling in ecstasy at witnessing displays of affection between strangers.

Fortunately, emotional inhibition can be overcome relatively easily. You just need to be aware of your problem and have the will to overcome it, along with carrying out some training. That said, there are some cases in which it’s associated with more serious problems. If this is the case, you’ll require specialized therapy.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.