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How Family Secrets Harm Mental Health, According to Science

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·         Family Secrets Cause Wandering Minds

Family secrets aren’t ever really “positive.” That’s why they’re secrets – they’re subjects of shame or negativity that the family feels they must keep private. When you think about these secrets, your mind is likely to wander to why they must be maintained. You’ll be stuck on negative loops of thought, unable to set them free.

·         Isolation and Depression

As previously mentioned, keeping secrets is isolating. Feeling that you’re alone in something can make you feel depressed. You can’t turn to the people around you, so you lose social support and feel even worse. Things might feel helpless or hopeless, especially if you know that you’re unlikely ever to be able to reveal the secret. You know your life will be like this forever, and that’s a depressing thought – that you can’t change or stop the thing that’s making you feel this way.

·         Repression

To keep certain family secrets, you may have to repress them. Repression tends to make issues bigger, with studies showing that it can harm your overall wellbeing. Repression also doesn’t solve the original negative emotion, instead of amplifying it over time. You may eventually feel the need to desperately express the secret somehow, making it an even more volatile situation.

Final Thoughts On Some Harmful Impacts Of Keeping Family Secrets

Not all family secrets are significant, and some are fine to keep. For example, one person’s secrets might be their business. They can have the right to decide who to include in their trusted circle of who knows that “secret.” And, of course, if a family secret is positive, like a surprise party, there’s no issue there!

There are also different circles in families. For instance, a nuclear family may be open about some things they won’t share with extended family. Or perhaps one branch of a large family has behaved negatively, or in a toxic way, so they’re excluded from knowing something. Or, maybe, a family secret isn’t so much under active concealment as it is just considered something that’s private and not for the knowledge of social media and the general, barely acquainted public.

The bottom line is that each family is unique, and there are essential pieces of context to a lot of family secrets. When determining if a family secret is harmful, you have to consider its nuance. Who is it harming? What would likely happen if the secret came out? Has concealing the secretly caused stress, strain, and toxic dynamics between family members?

Living with family secrets and their harmful impacts is difficult. But facing them and being open with them, breaking the seal of silence, maybe even harder. It can damage a family entirely and create huge rifts there. One must think cautiously before airing “dirty laundry” from their family. Approaching the topic with tact, empathy, and a desire for strengthening family bonds is the best way to begin.

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