In The Dilemma, Vince Vaughn’s character is keeping a huge secret from his best friend: his wife is cheating on him. Vaughn’s “dilemma,” of course, is whether to tell his buddy. But, he may not know he’s also putting himself in harm’s way by lying to his friend. Guilt is just the beginning.
Along with feeling guilt, people who lie, omit the truth, or keep a secret are at risk for some not-so-pleasant health complications. For starters, lying releases stress hormones—the same ones that are triggered in what’s called your fight-or-flight response, according to Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD, author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves. “This increase in stress hormones causes your heart rate and breathing to increase, digestion to slow down, and hypersensitivity of muscle and nerve fibers,” she says.
These effects may not sound that serious, but over time, they can lead to conditions that no one would want, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Why? Because blood pressure rises in the heart when you’re lying, “which can be life threatening over a prolonged period of time,” says Dr. Dalton-Smith. (This is why polygraph or lie detector tests accurately test for lying; they measure jumps in blood pressure.)
It’s highly doubtful that one instance of omitting the truth will give you a stroke, but there’s evidence that the more you lie, the easier it becomes, and it can be a recipe for disaster.
According to the results of a November 2010 study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition by the Department of Psychology at Belgium’s Ghent University, “Frequent truth telling made lying more difficult, and frequent lying made lying easier.”
In other words, “You reap what you sow,” says Dr. Dalton-Smith. “The more you lie the easier it becomes, and similarly the more honest you are the easier it is to be honest.”
Those who lie on a daily basis or have been keeping a big secret for years may find it easy to do so over time, but they’re significantly more at risk for these negative health effects than others are. Along with having complications from high blood pressure, chronic liars may also develop the same diseases associated with chronic stress, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Those certainly got your attention, right?
With that in mind, lying hardly seems worth it. As much as it may hurt someone emotionally to hear the truth, coming clean and being honest is the best thing you can do for your own health (and for their peace of mind). As Dr. Dalton-Smith advises, “Rather than getting caught in a vicious cycle of lies like in the movie The Dilemma, it’s best to consistently practice being truthful.”
After all, the more you tell the truth, the better you’ll get at it, and thus, the harder it will be for you to stretch, omit, slant, exaggerate, or ignore the truth. Without lies, you’ll face less dilemmas in your everyday life—something you and your body will both appreciate.
Tell us: does lying give you an icky physical feeling?
Originally published on BettyConfidential