Keeping Secrets is Bad for You - Here’s Why

Posted on August 4, 2017

Secrets are bits of information that a person does not want to share with anyone else. Some secrets may even be positive, for example hiding a surprise party. There are two aspects of keeping secrets. Firstly, having a secret makes you feel more terrible than if you did not have to keep one. Second, hiding it from people whom you don’t want to accidentally let slip to is the most stressful aspect of keeping a secret.

A recent paper by Michael Slepian, Jinseok Chun and Malia Mason suggests that keeping secrets is a goal you have. That is a potential problem – it is often easy to think about goals that are not yet achieved. Your motivational system helps you achieve your goal by reminding you about it when you come across something that is related to the goal. For example, you would notice a mailbox more when you need to mail a letter.

This might mean you think about the secret constantly, even when the people you are hiding it from are not with you. Therefore, the act of keeping secrets may be stressful because you keep thinking about it, not because you are actively hiding it from someone. You are constantly reminded that you have a secret to keep. This knowledge may make you feel like you are not being authentic, which can make your mood more depressed.

This proposal was tested in ten studies. The results found that people realised they were thinking about the secret around three times more than actually hiding it. There was a decrease in their overall sense of happiness and well-being, but this was related to how often they were thinking about the secret, and not the frequency to which they had to hide it. Just thinking about secrets was also linked to worse health.

The same pattern was found when the researchers focused on secret-keeping from romantic partners, to make sure this effect also applied to people important to the secret-keeper. The results further showed that keeping secrets reduced people’s feelings of authenticity. Authenticity is whether people feel their actions is congruent with who they truly they are. The decreased authenticity made people feel worse.

The findings find that having to keep a secret makes people stressed because of the thoughts of the secret. They also suggest that keeping secrets can be bad for your health, mentally and physically.

Category(s):Caregiver Issues / Stress, Happiness, Other

Source material from Psychology Today

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