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Emotional Expression and Health: Advances in Theory, Assessment and Clinical Applications


Ivan Nyklicek, Lydia Temoshok and Ad Vingerhoets
Hove and
New York:  Brunner-Rouledge, 2004, 344 pp.


Nyklicek, et al'  s book examines the connection between certain  types of emotional expression and health. Any type of uppression or repression of emotion is deleterious to an individual's health. The authors examine several types of ression and denial in the book to show how a lack of expression of emotion can cause immense stress, psychological discomfort, and ultimately physical disease. In fact, many of the major diseases are caused, at least in part, by a lack of emotional pressiveness. Therefore, Emotional Expression and Health is an important book for individuals who have repressive personalities and would like to mitigate the negative effects of such habitual ways of acting. 

One form of repressive behavior, lying and deception, is  very harmful to health, although many forms of deception are actually adaptive and a prerequisite for successful living. Deceit serves to promote social support.  However, blatant forms of deceit are destructive to the self and  hers.  Deceptive communications are ubiquitous since the ways in which individuals can deceive are endless. Self-deception in the form of self-enhancement and positive illusions can help to protect individuals from depression and provides strength to cope with physical disease. owever, pathological lying involves lies to others that are injurious to the self since it reflects deficits in basic psychological functions.


There are many benefits to sharing negative emotion with others. The social sharing of emotion is a process that takes lace during the hours, days, and even weeks and months following an emotional episode. It involves the evocation of an emotion in a socially shared language to another individual by the person who experienced it. Verbalizing an emotional memory can transform it. After verbalization, this memory could lose a significant part of its emotional load.  The more individuals socially share an emotional episode, the more relieved they will feel. Thus, putting stress and trauma into words substantially reduces the physiological work necessary to get over the negative emotion and is thus beneficial to health.  Disclosure of negative emotion also enhances adjustment to ongoing stressors since it diminishes the psychic toxicity of intrusive thoughts, reducing their associations with depression and illness.

Anger suppression also plays an important role in developing hypertension. Chronically heightened sympathetic activation increases peripheral resistance, blood pressure. Both emotion suppression and emotion expression seem to play a key role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Suppressing negative emotions, such as disgust or sadness, or positive emotions such as amusement, leads to acute increases in sympathetic activation of the cardiovascular system. Alexithymia is defined as a no feeling state or intentionally switching off any feeling states that an individual feels. Alexithymics are prone to develop classical psychosomatic diseases such as peptic ulcer, bronchia asthma, essential hypertension, thyrotoxicosis, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodermatitis. Many patients with sychosomatic diseases manifest a rather primitive levels of psychological organization and lack of imagination in their responses to psychological tests. Alexithymics manifest an absence of verbal, gestural, and other symbolic expressions of affects, as well as a tendency to discharge emotional tension through action. 
 Further, worry plays a key role in nearly all anxiety disorders and is a core characteristic of generalized anxiety disorder. Worry may play a much broader role in psychological and somatic health. There are a variety of long term consequences to worry, ranging from anxiety disorders and medically unexplained somatic complaints to path physiological conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. Worry is also related to the fear process itself. Daily hassles have substantial health consequences that may even surpass those of major life events in terms of stress. Worry has a much broader role in somatic health that has been fully appreciated in the past because it is a source of stress.
 One way of remedying all of these repressive conditions is for individuals to develop emotional intelligence. The skills relevant to emotional intelligence may be linked to health and illness in significant ways. Health seems to result from being able to express and appraise emotions clearly, understand them, use them to facilitate cognitive activities, and regulate them effectively.  Engaging in disclosure reduces the emotional arousal and distress elicited by trauma, such as intrusive thoughts, ruminations and flashbacks. Overt hostility is marked by an absence of key emotional intelligence competencies, particularly the ability to identify and regulate oneUs emotions effectively. Individuals who are highly hostile, for instance, express negative reactions to everyday stressors intensely. Hostile individuals may not be able to identify the detrimental impact that they have on themselves and others. Such individuals have demonstrated greater cardiovascular responses to social provocation, including being interrupted during a task.  Hostile individuals have constantly showed elevated heart rate, regardless of concurrent mood.

 In conclusion, this book is clearly written and examines some very important topics to ponder for medical professionals and psychologists alike. One consistent theme that can be extracted from this book is that there is a definite link between certain stressors in our life and our overall physical health and well being. Some individuals start developing some of these repressive behavior patterns early on in life. Alexithymics, for instance, develop their symptoms in early childhood, and if the condition is untreated, it could become a serious mental condition with many physical ramifications. This is an eye-opening discovery that we should be taken into consideration if we are to live healthy and emotionally intelligent lives.


Irene Sonia Switankowsky,
University of Wales, Lampeter.