CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The recent parade of public scandals in the news every day raises the question of why this is happening so much.
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anthony Weiner. John Edwards. The list goes on. What were they thinking?
Actually, they probably weren't thinking. Celebrities and public personalities often consider themselves untouchable -- or above it all. Others think they're "Teflon" -- that nothing will stick to them. (This seems to particularly afflict politicians.)
"You're only as sick as your secrets," goes the old saying. While everybody has them, some secrets carry a hidden price that can affect your health -- on many levels.
According to Dr. Gail Saltz, psychoanalyst and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, certain things we hide from others are more detrimental than others. For example, there's shame associated with drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and smoking, all of which pose health risks, including heart disease and cancer.
That's not to say absolutely everything needs to be exposed. At times it would do greater harm to shine the light on every detail. And there's the rub. Because they involve subjective thinking, secrets are evaluated differently by different people.
If it would hurt others without helping in any way, is it better left unsaid? If it only serves to absolve your conscience and have you get something off your chest, is it worth the enduring impact it could have on the rest of your family, friends or co-workers?
However, if you've been harboring something for a long time and exposing it would be healthy, it's worth summoning up the courage to get it out. The tighter we hold on to a secret, the more we turn that fear and guilt inward. And that can lead to all kinds of consequences.
"To tell or not to tell" creates anxiety, stress and worry and can even manifest in physical symptoms. According to "The Science Behind Secrets," an article in the professional journal Association for Psychological Science, people hiding traumatic secrets showed more signs of:
Revealing your personal secret to someone is a step in the right direction if you want to rid yourself of carrying this burden alone for the rest of your life. According to author, minister and playwright Sonya Visor, releasing your secret can relieve you of the stress of deception. Her book, "Who I've Become is NOT Who I AM," lays the following groundwork: