It’s common for people to keep secrets. One study found that the average person is holding onto 13 secrets at any given time, and five are secrets they’ve never told anyone else. And another study found that 1 in 5 people keep a major secret from their spouse!
But it’s when you keep secrets from those closest to you, such as friends, partners and family members, that it can start to have a negative toll. You might think keeping secrets from family is common (especially around mental health and substance abuse issues), but it’s not a good pattern to get into. A dysfunctional family keeps secrets, while a well-rounded family feels comfortable enough with each other to share anything.
So, how can keeping secrets be harmful? Keep reading to find out.
Dysfunctional Families Keep Secrets
Secrets may not seem like a big deal. However, it’s essential to recognize that you should feel comfortable and safe enough with your family that you feel like you can tell them anything. And not feeling able to tell your family your secrets may be a sign that you don’t trust your loved ones or don’t feel supported by them. Secret-keeping can lead to dysfunctional family dynamics, so stopping this pattern as soon as possible is vital.
Keeping Secrets From Family: The Impact on Mental Health
Even a small secret can sometimes turn into a bigger problem. And if you can’t share with those who support you, it can take a toll. Some of the consequences of keeping secrets from family are:
- Shifting power dynamics. When some of the family knows a secret and others don’t, it can change the power dynamics of the entire family. Those who have all the information and know the secret have an advantage over those who don’t.
- Destroy relationships. Keeping secrets from those closest to you only increases the risk of broken trust if the person finds out. Some secrets are so big they can destroy a relationship.
- Negatively impact children. Sometimes we keep secrets from children in an attempt to shelter them. However, children are very perceptive and can often pick up on things without us realizing it. When we keep secrets from children, we risk them finding out and blaming themselves for the situation. For example, parents hiding an impending divorce might send their child the message that the breakdown in the marriage is the child’s fault.
- Increase the risk of illness. When people keep a secret from their closest loved ones, they often feel overwhelmed with stress and guilt. Dealing with stress over long periods can lead to physical symptoms (headaches, backaches, digestive issues) and mental health problems (anxiety, depression, addiction).
Five Most Avoided Topics in Families
Here are the most common topics families avoid talking about with each other.
1. Romantic Relationships
People sometimes hide relationships from their family, especially if they’re with a partner they know their family will disapprove of.
2. Financial Problems
People can feel ashamed when they struggle financially and often hide it from others — sometimes even their partners.
3. Work or School Difficulties
Having difficulties at school or work can cause shame or embarrassment.
4. Mental Health Struggles
People going through a mental health struggle will often hide their symptoms and concerns from those around them due to the stigma around mental health conditions.
5. Substance Use Habits and Addiction
Many people hide the full extent of their substance use from friends and loved ones.
While all these are concerning areas to lie about, it should be noted that hiding mental health struggles and substance abuse issues from loved ones is a slippery slope. If you’re dealing with either of these issues, you’ll need your family’s love and support to get through it and return to feeling healthy.
Breaking the Silence: Is It Worth It?
We keep secrets because we’re often too scared, ashamed, embarrassed or guilty to reveal the truth. So, is breaking the silence with your family genuinely worth it? The answer is yes. Shedding secrets and letting your family in will help you feel less stressed, reduce your anxiety and feel more connected to your loved ones.
And don’t forget — that secret you’re keeping could be making you sick! Keeping secrets can increase stress and blood pressure, cause sleep problems, increase chronic pain and impact your overall mental health.
Opening up about secrets is never easy, but it’s worth it. You’ll feel liberated once you’ve gotten these things off your chest. And letting your loved ones in is never a bad thing.
Healing Through Transparency
When you let your loved ones in, you allow them to be there for you in times of need. If you’re hiding mental health struggles or addiction from your family, know that opening up is crucial for your safety. These aren’t challenges you can go through alone, and your loved ones want to be there to support you. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming understanding you receive from your family. It may even make you wonder why you kept the secret from them in the first place.
Seek Professional Assistance
If the idea of finally coming clean to your family feels impossible, consider getting professional help. You can ask your loved ones to join you for family counseling sessions. At these sessions, you’ll have a safe and supported place to open up. Having a professional, impartial third party present will help you feel safe and make the conversation productive.
Restore Mental Health
If you’re struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse issues, Restore can help. After coming clean to your loved ones, the next step is to seek professional help. Taking your life back into your own hands is the best gift you can give yourself and your family. Contact us today to better understand the programs we offer and how we can help.