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Why is it so hard to keep a secret?

Circa 1932: American film actress Polly Moran whispering to a friend.
Circa 1932: American film actress Polly Moran whispering to a friend.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Could it be true that secrets really are no fun, unless you share with everyone?

Research indicates that secrecy can be a source of both mental and physical distress, since keeping secrets requires continual effort. It appears that more meaningful secrets require more effort to keep.

One recent study found that when subjects were asked to conceal their sexual orientation during an interview performed more poorly on spatial tasks and reacted more rudely to criticism.

All this mental exertion could actually wear your body down. Some scientists have indicated a link between keeping emotionally charged secrets and illnesses as common as a cold to more serious chronic diseases.

Do you struggle with keeping secrets? Have you felt the burden of concealing an important secret?  How have you dealt with keeping a meaningful secret?   


Atlantic Magazine’s Sarah Yager, Associated Editor, Atlantic magazine, who’s the author of the piece

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