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Disclosure: Sharing With Family, Friends, and Acquaintances

The Pros And Cons Of Telling Family, Friends And Acquaintances

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Why tell in general

There are many reasons to tell about your condition. The ones we know about follow, in no particular order:

  • Keeping secrets is stressful - the greater the secret the greater the stress. 
    • Fear of people finding out can haunt you. 
    • There can be a very heavy toll to pay when you have someone close to you, with whom you share life and emotions, who doesn’t know about your diagnosis. You will need to constantly stay on guard because every conversation could unintentionally reveal your secret.  
  • There is no reason to feel shame because you have an illness.
  • Your ability to control information is limited. 
    • Your ability to control information becomes more limited the more time goes on. 
    • Friends and family are likely to sense something is causing you anxiety and possibly changing your appearance, energy level etc. 
    • If you live with other people, it is close to impossible to keep your condition a secret when you get mail such as copies of insurance claims, when you have to take time to visit medical personnel, have and take pills, and change habits such as your diet.
  • To get emotional support.
  • To get information.
  • To stop the rumor mill.
  • Lying about things can get complicated. You have to remember lies, possibly back them up - and maybe even embellish them as time goes on.
  • Help reduce the loneliness that generally comes with a diagnosis.
  • Get a boost to your ego from people who see you as a fighter and survivor.
  • Avoid having people close to you feel hurt because they weren't told.

Why not tell?

  • The feeling that people will feel sorry for you (also known as the "pity reason.")
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Your relationship is likely to change, at least temporarily.
  • Word may get back to your employer or co-workers before you decide to disclose.
  • Questions may bring home how uncertain things may be at any given time.
  • Keeping the information to yourself can make you look "tough" in the eyes of some people who see toughness as a virtue.
  • With some conditions, such as HIV or lung cancer, there may be negative opinions. For example:
    • With HIV there may be an assumption about how you got it. There may also be a morality opinion about those activities. 
    • With lung cancer, there may be the reaction that you brought it on yourself by smoking. 

NOTE: It is advisable to keep in mind that even people you swear to secrecy are likely to tell other people about what is happening.

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