Updated: Mar 25, 2021
We have all kept a secret or two at some point in our life. It may have been your partner’s, a family member or maybe even a friend's. It could have been a harmless secret or something much deeper and possibly life changing if it got out in your circle, regardless of what kind of secret it is or who it belongs to, keeping secrets can affect different people in unimaginable ways.
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was found that on average a person keeps around 13 secrets at any given moment.
“Out of the 38 different categories of secrets people typically keep, the most common secrets people have revolve around extra-relational thoughts, this includes romantic desires, sexual behaviour and lies.”
It has been found that having to keep secrets for longer periods of time can impact you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Research has repeatedly told us that keeping secrets is bad for your health, which leads us to end up keeping secrets about keeping secrets. However, a recent study found that there's really just one way keeping secrets affects your health; the rest of the time, holding something in is generally benign.
“People think about their secrets on their own far more frequently than they actively hide them from others.”
Effects of Holding Secrets
A secret can harm you if you start to think about it more frequently. The more you think about a secret, the guilt tends to make you feel worse. This is further exacerbated when the secret affects how a person feels about themselves, particularly if you feel inauthentic and like they're hiding something from others.
A good way to lessen a secret’s impact on your health, might be with controlled release (to the person who told you of course) letting them know how you feel and the impact it’s having on you. If you can admit that holding this secret is making you feel bad, the acknowledgment may help you feel more authentic and lead the other person tell the truth to others. Talking helps, you’ll be in better mental health form and the other person will definitely not tell you anymore secrets as they will know how it can affect you!
While some people can become quite accustomed to hiding secrets from others, and it becomes second nature with the ability for the secrets to not cross their mind in social situations, others may find it hard and struggle with keeping. If you need to release a secret be mindful on the individual you are releasing your burden to, alternatively talk to a professional who can also be helpful.