Ever notice how good you feel after venting – to a friend, to a therapist, even a stranger who was willing to listen?
The health benefits of self-disclosure should come as no surprise. Interestingly, we devote 30-40% of our speech to informing others about our own experiences: What we did over the weekend; how that date went the other night; or the delectable dinner your honey made last Tuesday. However, I’m sure we all know someone who shares – or overshares – much more than that. Therapists call this “self-disclosure catharsis.”
According to a May 2012 study, disclosing information about the self has been found to activate our brain’s intrinsic “reward” pathway, which may improve our mood and lighten our stress. This pathway produces feelings of reward, desire, and satisfaction. It has also been linked to addiction and depression.
Oversharing is so addicting that the same study found that many were willing to forego money to disclose about the self.
Experts also suggest that self-disclosure procures adaptive advantages in a number of ways: By strengthening social bonds with others; by eliciting feedback from others to attain self-knowledge; by showing others that you want to know what they know ("I got this on my exam. What did you get?"). Our need to self-disclose to the point of oversharing is mere proof of how social we are as a species.
Now, there’s one more way that I want you to use self-disclosure to your benefit: Tell your doctor everything. We often overlook the need for better doctor-patient communication. So be sure to ask the right questions and bring whatever it is that’s been bothering you to the attention of your physician – especially if it’s out of the ordinary: The number of times you needed to use the bathroom; those pesky pounds you can’t get rid of; that achy pain in your right calf for which you popped a few too many aspirin; or those headaches that have been plaguing you all week. Keep a list of questions and concerns in your smartphone or notepad, so you don’t forget. It’s better to overdo it than under-do it.
Even though your doctor may not be able to address every issue during your appointment, he or she will at least be aware of important issues to address – including issues that may save your life.