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Can Keeping Secrets Actually Affect Your Brain?
What do we know about those who keep secrets? Secret-keepers tend to be sick people. Although the exact reason for this is not yet known, what is known is that stress is hard on the body, particularly the immune system. When your immune system is constantly depressed due to stress, you are more susceptible to illness and disease. There is considerable research which shows stress harms the body, so it only goes to say that if you want to remain healthy, don’t be a secret-keeper — and don’t keep secrets for too long if you are.
One web page, The Apology Page, is an anonymous Internet sanctuary where you can post anything you like: secrets, regrets, apologies, releasing your secrets to the anonymous internet world. You can also read some of the apologies and secrets that people have left on this website, which can reduce your own feelings of shame and isolation.
Studies show that people who keep long-term secrets believe hills are steeper than those who do not hold secrets. Holocaust victims, with memories about their mistreatment and the deaths of loved ones, who begin to talk about their experiences become healthier the longer they talked about the past. Doctor of Psychology Anita Kelly from the University of Notre Dame, has spent years researching the affects secrets can have on our health. In short, Dr. Kelly notes that those who hold on to secrets have high levels of depression, anxiety and general aches and pains throughout the body.
Counselors and therapists will tell you that self-disclosure can result in many positive health benefits including increased self-esteem, problem clarification, increased feelings of support, and improved moods.
When should you share a secret?
- If it’s your own secret, and it is causing you anxiety.
- When you can limit the amount of harm to someone by sharing what you know.
- if keeping the secret puts someone in danger
If you must share a secret because someone you know and care about might be hurt because of it, think the best way to reveal it. Always be aware that some people don’t really want to know the truth, and it’s not right to reveal a secret to relieve yourself of pain by adding to someone else’s pain.
If you have secrets that you must share but don’t know how or to whom you should trust them, or if you have secrets that you don’t know how to handle, seek the advice of a qualified therapist.