Secrets are bad for your health
by Claire Hannum / © 2019, Greatist.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
I grew up in a Midwestern town where the prevailing wisdom was to only talk about what was pleasant and to keep secrets, if necessary, to make that happen.
This meant staying mum when someone offended you, rarely vocalizing negative feelings and smiling a tad more than is necessary. It also meant zero room for airing any sort of dirty laundry, especially not the kinds of personal secrets that keep people up at night.
Many of us like to believe that sweeping unpleasant truths under the rug might make them eventually go away. Instead, keeping secrets—especially heavy ones—can spin an even more complicated web of isolation and deception. So why do we do it?
Being set free
The truth can hurt. But in many situations, it’s better to get it out and let the healing start, rather than allowing it to become more toxic.
The burden of holding in the truth doesn’t just disappear. It lurks in the back of your mind and can cause a number of disruptions to your life and health.
“If the situations in your daily life are regular reminders of the secret, and you find it stressful to keep it, then yes, it can have emotional and physical consequences,” says Dr. Dean McKay.
“Some people also find keeping secrets stressful out of a general concern they will ‘slip,’ and this frequent and recurring thought of the secret can in itself be stressful.”
This difficulty is especially compounded if you feel trapped by the secret, or if it brings up other negative feelings like guilt, shame or anxiety.
“If the secret is stigmatizing … or if it feels like you would not be accepted if people knew your secret, it can create shame. If the secret is a big part of your identity or who you are, it can lower your sense of self-worth,” says Dr. Kristine Chapleau, a psychotherapist at Indiana University Health.
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