What science says about how keeping secrets affects our brains

Keeping secrets can be a tough task and, in addition, harmful to health. More and more sociological and psychological studies reaffirm it. And what do we know at the neurological level? Our brain also suffers.

Popular knowledge could not be more correct: secrets are bad for our health. Whoever has no secrets will be free, in many ways. This is what researchers have discovered about it.

Keeping secrets is bad for your health

There is no doubt. All the approaches made to date: psychological, sociological, neurocognitive ... indicate the same thing: keeping secrets is bad for health. For what reason? From a psychological point of view, keeping a secret is a task that involves various conflicts. The first of them is that it is an energy consuming task.

As an interesting study by the Columbia University shows, it is necessary to constantly be evaluating what can and cannot be said, or how to do it, in front of who or if anyone may suspect. There is also the concern of making the mistake of releasing him through carelessness. Recursive thinking about secrecy consumes an immense amount of energy, as well as the self-evaluation that usually leads to the cost of our self-esteem.

Secondly, it is sociological. Although the secrets are vox populSocially speaking, they usually have an important burden. Of course, we are not talking about harmless secrets. Michael L.'s investigations et al, published for the American Psychological Association, show that this type of secrets that affect our loved ones, a betrayal, a major job change ... are often associated with a conflict that can influence personally. In most cases they translate into social isolation, feeling of depression and anxiety.

In general, the burden of a secret has important implications for people, who are affected by various fronts, losing emotional resilience (it is more difficult to cope with a problem, it increases irritability ...) and there is less capacity and possibility reaction due to fatigue and deconcentration.

What happens to our brain

All these manifestations are obviously linked to a neurocognitive physiological factor. What happens to our brain, and to our body, when we keep a secret? The study we were talking about, by Michael L. et al, describes the neurological processes that affect us. These have a lot to do with stress. The moment we decide not to tell a secret, our prefrontal orbital cortex begins to stimulate the feeling of how bad it will be to tell the secret.

This part is related to decision making, in the first instance, triggering the first signs of stress. This activates the cingulate gyrus and this, in turn, promotes the secretion of stress-related hormones. Then, our amygdala, a fundamental part of the limbic system, becomes saturated, generating a typical state of alert for stress. Irritability and bad mood begin here.

This also affects how we rest (getting worse), which increases the state of stress. The hippocampus, also part of the limbic system, is compromised by an increase in cortisol, a hormone secreted due to stress in the brain. Later, cytokines will begin to secrete excessively, which will be noticed in learning, memory and even in the immune system.

The prefrontal cortex, then, will be "disconnected" due to the state of stress. Decisions, therefore, as well as many of the communicative functions will be affected. This creates more stress, making the situation even more complicated. An important secret, in fact, can end up leading to a feeling of significant isolation, leading to depression or anxiety attacks.

There is an important difference between secret and private

Keeping a secret can be detrimental to health, of course. But not all secrets are so "serious". This is because not everything we call a secret is considered "secret". Some things are only private. The conceptualization of both terms, although colloquially more diffuse, has been working for many years by experts in sociology and psychology. We can appreciate it in studies like this, by psychologists Carol Warren Barbara Laslett.

On a psychological level they also have fundamental differences. While secrets have an important burden: information that should not be transmitted by the threat of a consequence, privacy is considered legitimate. The fact that a person requests that something be kept in his private sphere does not affect in the same way, nor does it generate the stress associated with secrets, as reported by the psychologist Anta E. Kelly in her book "The Psychology of Secrets "

On the contrary, we all feel entitled, and reaffirmed, to maintain our privacy. The effects, instead of negative, can be positive, reinforcing the group feeling and dissipating the feeling of isolation. It can also help combat stress. The question is, how do we differentiate between private and secret? Where is the limit? The truth is that there is no concise answer about it.

In general, secrets are usually associated with external information, although not always. They also affect in a negative way or have a clear social importance: a future change in the company, an infidelity ... These secrets kept are an unacceptable social exchange. This also varies the way we have to appreciate them: something private for one person could become a kept secret for another, with all the consequences.

In general, and despite the clear negative effect that a secret can have, we lack a lot of information on a psychological and social level. Among other things, the definitions and the communicative implications they have. Measuring this question, of course, is not easy, although at the neurological level, curiously, it seems a much clearer topic than at the psychological or social level.

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