The Invisible Killer

By Heang Sokuntheary,

Photo by Nathaniel Flowers on Unsplash

If you cut yourself on the hand, catch a cold, or spill hot water on your arm, you would know what to do, right? When you catch a cold, you might say your mom recommends you to drink a lot of water, get a lot of sleep, and eat chicken soup, so that you could recover faster. When you cut your hand, you know that you must clean and bandage it immediately, or else the wound could be infected. If you spill hot water on your hand, you must look for medicine to apply on it to cool it down first, before it gets worse, or becomes infected as well.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

When it comes to physical injuries, you respond immediately on what to do and who to look for help. You know if you leave the injuries untreated, they will become worse and sometimes hard to treat. But what do you do when you are rejected by your peers, when you fail your ultimate goal, when you live far away from your loved ones, when you feel guilty, when you feel lonely, when you feel helpless, when you feel useless… and the list goes on? You don’t think that such feelings, or such wounds, need a treatment because you simply think you will get over them soon. But have you ever gotten over all those feelings?

I bet everybody who’s reading this is feeling related. A lot of you have gone through many bitter and struggling moments in your life. You’ve felt sad, stressed, guilty, angry, depressed, regret. When it comes to the hurt you experience inside of you, you seem to just ignore it.  Such feelings, such emotional wounds, you leave untreated. Just because you cannot see them, you deny their existence as an illness or some important matter you should care about. But I tell you what, you should, and you must care. Emotional wounds are real and can be very cruel.

“It’s possible to pretend that you are fine for several years, but you cannot let that temporary survival cloud your mind from accepting the truth”

In the book Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch, the emotional wound people usually experience in their daily life is divided into seven forms: Rejection, Loneliness, Loss and Trauma, Guilt, Rumination, Failure and Low Self-esteem. Among all these, the most common wounds are rejection, loneliness and trauma. Seeing the list, you may feel like they are just normal feelings people experience every day. Nothing serious.

But again, something small is going to get bigger, and eventually you will have to care of it. If left ignored, the normal act of rumination and feeling of stress could quickly grow into panic, anxiety and depression, and rejections and failures could lead to serious harm to our self-esteem and mental well-being. Worst, if the problems persist and are left untreated, they could lead to self-harm and  suicidal thoughts.

According to WHO, mental disorder is the leading cause of disability in the world, and also the reason that more than 800,000 people worldwide die each year. It is also stated in the report that most of the people who have mental problems and would commit suicide are people in the age group of 15 to 29.

Moreover, not only could the emotional distress we experience everyday cause mental problems, they could harm us physically as well. In the book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, it compares the emotional distress to squeezing the tube of a closed lid toothbrush, meaning that when your mind is under pressure, it will eventually find its way out. The emotional distress that builds up inside you will come out by attacking your body’s weakest points, whether it’s your digestive system, your nerves, sleeping pattern or immune system. The excessive stress could lead to physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, heavy breathing, nausea, body ache, rashes and hives, etc. The emotional cut could also result in memory loss, concentration problems, and worsened brain ability as a whole too according to the book.

It is possible for you to reject the fact that you are mentally affected and pretend that you are fine for several years, but you cannot let temporary survival cloud your mind from accepting the truth. To those people out there who might be suffering from mental problems, please do not ignore and start taking care of yourself. To give you some insight, these are some tips to help heal your emotional cuts recommended by the book “Emotional First Aid”:

1. Moving from self-criticism to finding your self-worth

Photo by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Too often, when people are rejected by their peers, their classmates, or their loved ones, they feel frustrated. They kick and beat themselves up, thinking that they are not worthy enough for those people to love them back and finding thousands of flaws in themselves. Of course, nobody is perfect, and having flaws is normal. But if you feel that way, the first thing is you have to look at your self-criticism. List it on a piece of paper and start analyzing whether you are the reason you were rejected. Most of the time, rejections don’t just happen because of anybody’s fault or shortcoming. Maybe there are some rational explanations out there that cause the rejection. Do not assume that everything happens because it’s your fault. Adding to that, you could also think about and list down your worth, kindness, goodness and everything that makes you happy about yourself. By doing this, you will find yourself in a better state of mind and feel less responsible for any rejections happening in your life.  

2. Engaging in emotional bonding and social connection if you feel lonely

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Most of the time, loneliness always strikes an emotional wound among adults. The feeling of loneliness makes you question your existing relationships, whether they are still going well, or if you are drifting apart. A lot of the time, people tend to think negatively about themselves. Moreover, feeling lonely can make us behave too cautiously around people, making it awkward to form social connections. Therefore, the solution should be challenging your negative perception on your relationships, and start putting efforts to make the already existing relationships come to life again. Always remind yourself to talk to old friends and meet up whenever possible. Reduce your feeling of self-consciousness or hesitation when you are among your friends. You should express yourself more so that you can form stronger emotional bonds with others.

3. Soothe your pain and find meaning in the tragedy

For those people who have faced loss or trauma, such as losing their loved one in a car accident or being the victim of a car accident themselves, I know the pain is unbearable. To cope with such pain, people tend to have different ways of adjusting to the situation. Some people might feel like sharing their story, while others prefer to stay silent and never want to talk about it. It’s okay. You can do whichever you want to because you can’t force yourself to do things that you don’t want, and besides it’s your way of easing your pain. Moreover, to make you feel even better, find something meaningful out of that event. So often, people get inspiration from tragic events. For example, say you have a family member or friend who died because of a rare disease, you might want to start a foundation or be a part of a foundation that is doing research about the illness and find a new treatment for it.

These are just some points that I understand and got from the book Emotional First Aid. So I recommend that if you have the time, you should read the whole book because it will tell you in detail about each emotional cut, how they affect you, and how to treat them. It will guide you through the process of applying first aid to your emotional wound, helping you heal step by step.

Finally, if you have read until this part, I am so grateful. I hope after reading this, you start acknowledging your emotional wounds and start looking for help, or maybe pick up the books I recommended you.


Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.


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