The decision to remain silent about your personal challenges can set in motion a series of consequences that can hurt your life, your mental health, and your relationships.
The following list of signs may help you identify if you are being negatively affected by keeping your problems secret.
If these signs sound familiar to you, we hope that you will ask for help with your problems from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional.
You don’t have to live in silence with that weight resting on your shoulders.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist if you’re reluctant to speak to anyone else. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
1. You may experience increased stress.
Bottling up your feelings and problems increases your stress levels because it directly leads to increased anxiety and internal tension.
Sharing your problems, on the other hand, creates an emotional outlet for that anxiety and tension which keeps them from building up.
If you don’t talk about your problems, you may feel stuck and overwhelmed because you don’t have an outside perspective that could help shine a light on solutions.
Furthermore, hiding your issues may lead to feelings of shame about them. You might believe that other people will be unfair and judgmental if they find out, causing you even more stress and fear.
Increased stress will often cause physical health issues too. The physiological processes triggered by stress can be helpful in the short term, but if they persist in the long term, they can harm your body in various ways.
2. You may feel isolated and alone.
It should come as no surprise that keeping secrets will cause feelings of isolation and loneliness.
One of the worst feelings in the world is to be close to people who you can’t be open with. It’s natural to want to share things with friends or family, but it’s not always easy in reality.
If you don’t want to share, you are effectively creating a barrier between you and others—one that you hide important and sensitive matters behind.
This can slowly erode trust. And trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. When there’s no trust, the foundation cracks.
After a while, you may find that you have a hard time asking for help even if you want to. By not talking about your problems, you create another obstacle to overcome by telling yourself that it’s not okay to seek help.
It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to break free from.
3. Your relationships may become difficult or strained.
Relationships buckle under the weight of the secrecy created by not talking about your problems.
Friends and family are on the outside looking in. They don’t know what’s going on with you or why your behavior has changed so much.
They are left to draw their own conclusions, which aren’t likely to be accurate. Their conclusions may be far worse than the problem you’re actually dealing with, which just creates additional problems.
You may also find yourself resenting the fact that you can’t talk to your friends and family as openly as you’d like. Sadly, resentment festers and causes conflict, whether directly or indirectly.
4. Communication in your relationships may break down.
A lack of open communication about your problems may lead to breakdowns in other avenues of communication.
It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t want to be a bother, don’t want to speak up, or don’t want to burden anyone when you struggle to talk about your problems.
That eventually drifts into other parts of your life. Perhaps you stop talking about work, things you did with your friends, or things that you’re interested in or have done.
You may even find yourself avoiding your friends and family altogether, so that you don’t have to talk to them.
You may also find that boundaries become an issue. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking about your problems, you may not be comfortable with setting or enforcing healthy boundaries, because that requires open and honest communication.
5. You may fall into a pattern of unhealthy coping skills.
You may find yourself falling into a pattern of unhealthy coping skills when you can’t employ the healthy coping skill that is sharing your problems with others.
These unhealthy coping skills could be substance abuse, emotional eating, or even self-harm, among other things.
Self-blame is often a byproduct of unhealthy coping skills. You may tell yourself that you’re not good enough to talk about your problems. You may tell yourself that no one cares, no one wants to hear it, and no one wants to help.
This type of emotional self-harm is damaging to your self-esteem and self-worth.
People who struggle with depression may find that their problems cause them to spiral deeper into unhealthy thinking and negative behavior. Instead of breaking those cycles, the problems that you’re not talking about fuel the cycle instead.
6. The issues may escalate without your intervention.
Ignoring a problem typically won’t solve it.
When you’re not an active participant in handling your problems or living your life, you are essentially leaving the problem to other people who might not have your best interests in mind.
Other people may end up taking actions that worsen your problem if you don’t work on resolving it yourself.
Furthermore, some problems just get worse when they’re ignored. For example, if you’re having an issue with trusting your spouse, you will find your distrust growing and growing unless you confront those feelings and discuss them.
7. You may miss opportunities to build and strengthen relationships.
Anything deeper than a casual friendship comes from addressing problems with a friend. You can have a good time with anyone if you’re not a jerk, but deep friendships take much more to build and solidify.
Healthy relationships are built on trust and communication. There are plenty of times when you’re going to have a problem, need help, and would benefit from just having a friend to talk to.
That shows vulnerability, which demonstrates trust, which tells your friend that you do trust them. In turn, they should do the same for you.
Furthermore, if you’re having a problem with a friend, communication is the key to resolving it so that resentment doesn’t build.
Everyone’s different. There will undoubtedly be actions that your friend takes that you don’t like and vice versa. You may do things that hurt your friend. Talking about these problems helps you settle the issue and deepen the friendship.
8. You may miss out on support and validation from people who love you.
You may find that you miss out on support and validation by not venting to someone about your problems.
Friends and family that love and care about you will want to support you through a hard time. The chances are pretty good that you would want to do the same for any of your friends or family members who were struggling.
But you can’t get that support without opening up about your problems.
Perhaps you need validation that your problems are important, that they matter, that you matter. It’s helpful to hear from other people that yes, this is a problem that needs to be addressed and resolved.
You may also miss out on a solution that a member of your support network can provide that you just haven’t identified yet.
9. You may develop or worsen mental health issues.
Issues not dealt with can directly lead to more mental health problems.
Trying to deal with problems can aggravate just about any mental health condition due to increased stress.
You may find that the symptoms of a mental illness or mental health issue you have worsen as you experience the problem.
Not talking about the problem can fuel feelings of emotional detachment, depression, or extreme emotional responses, aggravated by stress and frustration.
You may experience increased anxiety as your mind reacts to the discomfort or how other people may perceive the problem. That anxiety can prevent you from taking the necessary step of reaching out to someone who can help you.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have friends and family to talk to. You may not have anyone in your life that you can open up to and be honest with. You may not know who to talk to.
The above signs are telling you that you need to open up and talk to someone whom you can trust.
If you find yourself in this position or experiencing these issues, it’s a good idea to talk to a certified mental health professional. They are trained to help you get to the root of the issue, provide emotional support, and help you find a resolution that works for you.
And speaking to a professional can often feel less difficult because the type of relationship you have with one is very different to what you have with family or friends, say.
If you think therapy might work for you, BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.