Is it really better to 'get it off your chest'?

Does it help to talk? - Does talking about traumas really help get it off your chest?
June 13, 2008 8:32am CST
Bottling up feelings after a traumatic shock may be a better strategy than letting them spill out, a study suggested. A popular assumption is that talking about a terrifying experience such as a car crash, earthquake, or terrorist attack can be thrapeutic and help get your feelings resolved. Pyschologists in the US used an online survey to test responses to the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Those who chose to express their thoughts and feelings were compared with those who did not, over a two-year trial. To their surprise, individuals who bottled up their feelings ended up better off. They suffered fewer negative mental and physical health symptoms than people who were willing to talk. The results have important implications - it calls into question the pleas made to people caught up in dreadful happenings to 'open up'. What's your opinion on this - does discussing horrible things make it better, or worse, as you have to relive the event?
7 people like this
18 responses
@ellie333 (21018)
13 Jun 08
Hi If this was only done over a two year period they don't know the long term effects of bottling do they as I have experienced first had delayed post trumatic shock which I will give you one example of. Someone close to me was in Norhern Ireland serving in the army and something happened over there they were sent home on a compassionate leave of sorts and went to Ibrox park where they witnessed their best friend die next to them in the crush of the tradegy that day at the football match. They continued to bottle their feelings and years later I was in the same room as them when the Hillsborough stadium disaster, another football match was unfolding on the screen in front of us, they lost it totally and are still very ill to this day with their nerves etc. had they opened up intially rather than bottling it wouldn't have been overload when a similar event triggered emotions if that makes sense so I feel these pyschologists should continue this study for numerous years not two as the findings cannot be acurate. Ellie :D
2 people like this
13 Jun 08
I tend to agree, ellie. My wife and I were caught up in the IRA Birmingham pub bombings in November 1974. We'd only ben married a few months, she was just 20, and the whole thing took years to work itself out, in fact I'd say it took two decades for us both to feel that what we saw and felt that night was in any way behind us. Thanks for the thoughtful input.
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@ellie333 (21018)
13 Jun 08
Whoah yes that must have taken some working through the consolation I suppose was that you had experienced together and were able help each other through as you had an understanding of what the other had it experienced. Horrific events like these do take years to get over. Ellie :D
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@p1kef1sh (45638)
13 Jun 08
I was a great "bottler up" Michael. I kept a lid on everything never letting go. Eventually of course something had to give. That's why I am not jobless and unable to find the self confidence to get motivated to do something again. I know that i will eventually, but I also know that keeping everything inside wasn't the right ploy for me. We are all different. Some may well benefit from being "open" other not so. I have known many second world war veterans who have told me how they never received counselling etc for their often horrific experiences during the war. But have spent every available minute ever since talking about it!
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@holachika (176)
13 Jun 08
looks to me that positive or negative effect of bottling up your feelings depend on the experience - traumatic or pleasant. if i may add, the individual's predisposition at the time of his pleasant or traumatic experience may also be a determining factor.
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@cjgrooms (4456)
• United States
13 Jun 08
I think it depends on the person and how they handle stress personally. I don't think that any one way is always right for everybody.
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@elisa812 (3031)
• United States
13 Jun 08
That is really interesting! It really surprises me since we always put such an emphasis on getting it out and not bottling things up. I guess maybe it just depends on the person. For me, I think it is better to get it all out in the open. I always feel so much better and really relieved after getting stuff off my chest. It has to be the right timing for me though. Sometimes I will be in the mood to talk to someone about what happened, but sometimes I don't feel like it, so in that case it would probably make it worse. As long as I'm feeling up to talking about something though, then I think it usually helps me a lot.
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@chiyosan (30190)
• Philippines
13 Jun 08
i think dicussing matter makes things better. if you let anything pass and you feel angry, or disappointed, etc then you will just carry that burden with you wherever yougo.
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@WATARIKENJI (1534)
• Philippines
13 Jun 08
In my opinion, one of the explanations is that our mind continue to process information even when we sleep. It receives, evaluate, and decide. The emotions that overwhelmed us during a traumatic experience if kept inside our heart, would be evaluated by our my depending on the experiences we had before. After it scans all the emotions that we had experienced, it would balance this by connecting it to a parallel emotion inside our hearts.
2 people like this
• Australia
22 Jun 08
Maybe over the 2 years, that study was right, but certainly over a longer period of time, those who do bottle up how they are feeling will eventually fall apart, while those who expressed their feelings, and began the healing process will have less issues 10+ years from now.
1 person likes this
@selece (2357)
• Philippines
14 Jun 08
I guess it all depends on the person. The are some people who bottle it all up inside and in the end, gets depressed. Then that depression could lead to other things. Yet, some people are good in dealing with things on their own. Sometimes it is better to be left alone, and find the solution to one's problems alone. There are people who need company, or people who feel better if they have someone who listens to them. For me, I sometimes handle things on my own, and sometimes I just feel the need to get things off my chest. It depends upon the situation.
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• Philippines
14 Jun 08
Hmmm that was new. I haven't seen that. Well i don't think that this is going to be an option in a psychiatric department or psychology at least for me. They don't know it the effects of that trauma will come to live. I mean its easy to say that after only two years of test period. I think personally its still better to talk about things cause it more dangerous if you don't know anything thats going on inside someone's mind who happens to experience some traumatic event. They can be a ticking bomb or some bomb that was buried deep down and once tap on might blow.
1 person likes this
• Philippines
14 Jun 08
Hmmm that was new. I haven't seen that. Well i don't think that this is going to be an option in a psychiatric department or psychology at least for me. They don't know it the effects of that trauma will come to live. I mean its easy to say that after only two years of test period. I think personally its still better to talk about things cause it more dangerous if you don't know anything thats going on inside someone's mind who happens to experience some traumatic event. They can be a ticking bomb or some bomb that was buried deep down and once tap on might blow.
1 person likes this
@GreenMoo (11837)
14 Jun 08
I think that will very much depend on the individual and the nature of the horrific event that they have suffered. In some cases, talking about an experience is really just thinking out loud and arranging thoughts into a sequence that can be understood and put aside. When something is so traumatic that it cannot be understood, the events of 9/11 come to mind as I don't think we will ever fully understand the sequence of events of the motivation, than talking it over and over perhaps keeps the experience fresh rather than allowing our brain to bury it. I don't know the answer. Thankfully I've never been in a situation that requires counselling on this level. My gut instinct says that talking over an experience for a long time just keeps raking up the horror or it and prevents healing though.
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@marababe (2510)
• Philippines
14 Jun 08
I think it depends on the event and the person. But I believe that even for just one time, get it out of your chest. Let go. Tell it to someone you trust, someone close to you who will listen. Cry if you must. You have to get it off. Then maybe after a while you'll feel better if you keep it to yourself. One listener is enough. I think it's not also healthy to be talking about it too much.
@Hatley (164214)
• Garden Grove, California
14 Jun 08
i think it depends entirely on the person and what the horrible event was. some people do better by talking about it right away while others,like myself, need time to think and to wrap our own minds around the horrible event. People are all different in how we best handle horrible happenings to ourselves or loved ones. so we all need different ways to handle these situations.
@Stiletto (4582)
14 Jun 08
As most of your other respondents have said I think it depends on the individual. Some people need to talk and others don't. Personally I'm not a talker. I don't really view it as "bottling" up my feelings, I think of it as just dealing with it on my own. A few years ago I did go through a very difficult time and became quite ill because of it. People around me were very kind and well-intentioned, but constantly being asked if I wanted to "talk about it" drove me crazy! They couldn't accept that it wasn't because I didn't feel able to talk about things - I really, really didn't WANT to talk. Actually during that period my doctor persuaded me to go for counselling and I just hated every second of it! I did persevere with it for as long as I could but if anything it made me feel worse. And to be honest by the end of it I don't think the Counsellor knew much more about me than she did when we started lol. So I think "opening up" about things works for some people but not for everyone.
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@enbrown (282)
• United States
13 Jun 08
I think sometimes time is what helps things like this. Somethimes things need to take their course. The worst the thing is the longer it takes to forget it. Maybe the pain is good. It makes you realize that there are bad things that happen and that you are a strong person. After all if you can get over it, you really can do anything!
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@gemini_rose (16257)
13 Jun 08
I guess that it is a case of each to their own on this one to be honest. I would say that in my case I find it better to put bad memories or experiences away in a place in my mind to where they can get forgotten about. To keep going over it to me is not going to solve anything, when I am in a situation I do not like I would just rather not talk about it. Sometimes I do but I find that reliving it CAN be painful and can cause me to be very down for a while until I replace it back where it come from and forget about it again. Great question though.
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@jillbeth (2710)
• United States
13 Jun 08
I think it really depends on the person; some may feel better talking about the experience, but some may find it too traumatic to relive. My father-in-law, who was on the beach at Normandy on D-Day, would never talk about that day. He said he never wanted to live it over again. Of course psychologists want us to "talk about it"--how else would they make any money?
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