The Cost of Keeping Secrets

Cost of Keeping Secrets

When Keeping Secrets Comes With a Hefty Price Tag

Harboring secrets, whether they’re your own or someone else’s, can come with a price. So the next time you’re deciding whether or not to keep a secret, it might be a good idea to first decide if you can afford the cost of keeping that secret. Is it worth your overall well-being?

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What Keeping Secrets Does to Your Mind and Body

When it comes to the real cost of keeping secrets, it’s our minds, bodies and our relationships that pay the price. Secrets tax the decision-making part of the brain—possibly making it hard to process other things and definitely causing the brain stress. That stress then triggers the body to produce the well-known and often-dreaded hormone, cortisol. And while cortisol has its role to play in our bodies’ functions, too much of it can cause a whole host of physical responses such as weight loss or weight gain, depending on the person. Secrets can actually rob us of control over the way we think, look and feel—that’s a hefty price.

A Backpack Full of “Books”

Imagine for a minute that holding a secret is like carrying a backpack that you have to wear constantly and each secret is like a book being added to that backpack—varying in size and importance. At first you may not even feel the weight of it, but over time the backpack appears to be getting heavier and heavier even if you haven’t added anything to it. The stress starts to wear on you mentally and physically and eventually you realize that something is going to give.

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In her book, “Anatomy of a Secret Life,” Author, Gail Saltz calls secrets, “… the currency of close relationships.” Secrets do many things from providing us with power to making us feel safe, and they also have the ability to cause “shame, guilt, anxiety [and] despair.” You may not attribute your lack of sleep or those headaches or body aches to the secrets that you keep, but all of those symptoms and more can be the side effects of holding on to something you’d be better off letting go of. While keeping secrets can make you mentally and physically ill, divulging them can feel freeing and exhilarating.

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The Secrets We Shouldn’t Keep

We all have secrets of some sort, and we all have our reasons for holding on to them. In an article on, Dr. Alex Lickerman suggests a guide for deciding what secrets to share. He states, “The kind of secrets that shouldn’t be kept are those that allow us to behave in a way that causes harm to others or to ourselves.” Some examples of this type of secret include: infidelity, gambling, sex addiction, drinking and doing drugs. If someone with a secret shares it with someone else who keeps that secret from others, the harmful behavior continues and anyone who keeps the secret is an enabler. You can imagine that such scenarios can become quite complicated. Now that’s stressful.

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When to Share Your Secret

If you’re going to share a secret, timing is important. You not only have to be ready, but the people you’re sharing your secret with should be in a relaxed and receptive state of mind. Depending on the gravity of the secret, it’s probably a sensitive subject for both parties.

The Funny Side of Secrets

If we’re going to talk about secrets, we have to mention that some secrets can become funny with age—like a fine wine, you uncork it at a much later date. For instance, let’s say you “borrowed” your sister’s favorite shoes when you were in the ninth grade and then denied that you ever saw them at all. You knew if you confessed, she’d freak out and you’d be in trouble, so you keep it to yourself. Then 30 years later, you’re talking to your sister and that topic comes up, and you feel prompted to confess. Most likely it would wind up being a memorable moment when you could both have a laugh about something that happened ages ago and no longer mattered—hopefully. Keeping secrets is always a gamble.

4 thoughts on “The Cost of Keeping Secrets

  1. LJ Innes

    Dear Geoff: Sure, just go the main page on and sign up for emails delivered straight to your inbox. 🙂

  2. LJ Innes

    Dear Jula – Wow, tough town you live in. LOL The secrets you keep or not protect people they don’t harm them – so what you do is awesome. Still, I hope you find an outlet for releasing all that energy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. jula

    You’ll have no friends if you can’t keep a secret. I live in a small town and have learned to keep my mouth shut, unless someone’s life is in danger. Unfortunately, sometimes too
    many people confide in me and sometimes it can be overwhelming, but in my position as a
    social worker I have learned to keep secrets and know when not to.


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