How keeping secrets damages your mental health

There are no secrets that time does not reveal.

Therefore, keeping secrets is only delaying the time when the truth will inevitably come out.

However, while you keep a secret, you have access to information only a few possess. This gives you a sense of power, as you are privileged to hold exclusive knowledge, while others remain oblivious. Simply put, keeping secrets generates power. But what does it have to do with battling mental health issues such as anxiety or depression?

According to John R. “Jack” Schafer, Ph.D., keeping a secret consists of two parts: signifying that you possess secret information and refusing to reveal the secret itself. Withholding from exposing the actual fact, yet making it clear that you know something secretive, makes you feel superior to those who don’t possess that knowledge.

Meanwhile, by embracing that sense of power, you eventually understand that keeping secrets also requires control. And if you are familiar with mental health instability, or if you are currently struggling with anxiety issues, then you know how overwhelming the feeling that you have lost control is. It inevitably causes emotional distress and challenges your sensitivity. It takes a toll on your overall mental stability.

Instead of giving you a sense of power, maintaining secrecy eventually starts making you more and more anxious. 

Keeping secrets often makes you feel pressured, as you are constantly worrying that you might accidentally let them slip out. Whenever a secret flashes through your mind, you have to suppress the urge to spill it out. You must resist the temptation to reveal the exclusive information you hold. As Schafer explains, “the secret must be put under constant surveillance.” Therefore, the feelings of stress and anxiety intensify to a point where you cannot overpower them. This puts you in a constant state of strain, often accompanied by shame or guilt, or even both.

And as you are battling with the yearning to let it all out, you might even turn to medication, alcohol, or drug abuse. In a bid to control your emotions, you might adopt toxic habits that put your health at risk. While they may give you a temporary sense of balance, they could be detrimental in the long run.

But how can you reduce the anxiety without struggling with bad habits? 

The best way to get rid of the pressure of holding secrets is to reveal them. This may not be a preferable option, depending on the situation, but it sure takes some of the stress off your shoulders. We usually tell our secrets to the ones we find the most trustworthy. Of course, we start with the words: “Please, don’t tell anyone,” which puts them in a position of a secret holder.

Another option is to tell the secret to a perfect stranger. When you expose your exclusive information to someone you have no association with, you don’t have to worry that someone from your inner circle might find out the truth.

However, regardless of your choice of a confidant, revealing a secret that has tortured you mentally significantly reduces the feelings of stress and anxiety. Time will inevitably let it all out, so you might as well speed up the process.

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