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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 49 (2007) 6, 383 - 389

Review article

The emotional burden of secrets. Consequences for somatic health and implications for health care

A.A.J. Wismeijer, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets

background There is increasing evidence that emotionally burdensome secrets may play a role in predisposing an individual to develop somatic symptoms.
aim To provide an overview of the empirical evidence and theories concerning the relations between secrets and somatic health and to discuss the implications of these associations for health care. method We searched for peer-reviewed publications in Medline, ScienceDirect, Psycinfo and Web of Science, using as search terms 'secrecy', 'geheimhouding', 'self-concealment', 'disclosure', 'inhibition' and 'health'.
results Secrets are associated with an increased risk of somatic dysfunctioning, probably because they induce pathophysiological processes. The theories currently available provide adequate backing for further studies of this association.
conclusion Secrets seem to provoke pathophysiological processes that can affect a person's physical wellbeing. This means that health care professionals must realize that the emotional burden of secrets may contribute to a patients somatic symptoms.

keywords inhibition, secrets, self-concealment