'Fear of judgment is likely front and center in their mind until they get to know their therapist better and get the opportunity to build up a therapeutic alliance.'
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of suicide and sexual assault that some readers may find disturbing.
Thanks to years-long efforts to raise awareness about mental health and break the stigma attached to seeking professional help, more people are open to the idea of therapy these days. However, some of us still find it difficult to fully open up to our therapists and tend to hesitate before openly sharing with them. According to one mental health professional—who goes by the username DnDYetti on Reddit—there may be a big variety of reasons why a client holds back information from their therapist. "I can't realistically touch upon them all, however, I feel that the most common reason is the fact that the client is engaging in a brand new environment with someone whom they have only just met. Thus, that fear of judgment is likely front and center in their mind until they get to know their therapist better and get the opportunity to build up a therapeutic alliance," they told Bored Panda.
"This is especially true for individuals who have had a long history of perceived judgmental interactions within their life. This connects highly to what is known as an individual's 'learning history.' Simply put, what an individual has experienced in their daily life will be ingrained into their understanding over time and impacts their behavior (positively or negatively). If an individual has consistently experienced judgmental people and has had a long history of distrust with those around them, then they are highly likely to be defensive and fearful of opening up to others in the future. Every therapy experience holds so many unforeseen possibilities, and that is why a fear of opening up is not something that we take personally as therapists. Instead, we take the time to understand why that fear is present, and we work with you to help you navigate that fear, regardless of why it's there."
Reddit user Music-and-wine broached the topic in an AskReddit post a few months ago when they asked: "Therapists, what is something people are afraid to tell you because they think it's weird, but that you've actually heard a lot of times before?" Here are the top 21 responses to the query:
"I work in an older adults service for people with dementia and mental health problems. I see a lot of family members/Carers feeling ashamed of the fact that they are finding it incredibly difficult to care for someone that has dementia or a chronic mental health problem.
Carer burnout is a real issue and people need to know that it’s not easy to see someone you love struggling every day or slowly fading away month by month. Carers and family members desperately need time for themselves and need to know that it’s okay to feel the way that they do. No one is superhuman and we all have our own needs. It’s why we have therapy groups for Carers. It’s okay to struggle to look after someone and you should in no way feel ashamed of having those feelings." — aron24carat
"Recurring intrusive thoughts about harming others. Can be hurting/killing someone or sexual fantasies about children or relatives. Usually, people take a while to admit those. The reality is that if you are having them frequently you aren't dangerous. You probably have OCD and are terrified that you might be dangerous." — omg1337haxor
"I do a lot of trauma work. Many people who have experienced molestation or sexual assault feel ashamed and confused because their bodies responded. Having an erection/lubrication or even an orgasm does not mean you wanted the sexual contact and it is still assault. Clients often hold a lot of shame and confusion about this. They wonder if it means they wanted it or if there is something wrong with them. It is a tough thing to work through because of this. Assault is assault. Sometimes human bodies respond to sexual touch even when we don't want that touch." — roomforathousand
"To name a few: 'compulsive' masturbation, fears of being a pedophile/rapist (this is a common OCD fear), hoarding, sexual performance difficulties, history of sexual abuse or sexual assault (unfortunately it is VERY common), drug use, amount of money spent on various things, having an ASD diagnosis, going back to an abusive relationship / staying in an abusive relationship, grieving years and years after a loss, self-harm of all sorts, wanting to abandon their current lifestyle (for example, to have more sex, to escape responsibility or expectations), history of gang violence/crime, their sexuality (or asexuality), gender identity, the impact of racism / racial trauma, paranoia, hallucinations, feeling uncomfortable in therapy, not believing in therapy, difficulty trusting a therapist, fear of psychiatric medication, fear of doctors in general." — ImmaPsychoLogist
"Basically, anything having to do with sex. There's so much shame. Sexual abuse. Sexual fantasies and fetishes. Erectile dysfunction. Infidelity. Becoming sexually assertive. I've been told that I have a good 'psychologist's face.' I try not to have a strong reaction to normalize the discussion. With adolescents, they are extremely anxious to tell me if they've relapsed or aren't doing well. They cut one night or they were suicidal. They're having a lot of negative self-talk or panic attacks. They'll come in, pretending everything is okay. It's usually in the last 10-15 minutes that they'll say something. They'll reveal that they worried they'd let me down. That I'd be disappointed in them. It usually turns into a discussion about policing other people's feelings and tolerating emotions. I explain that I care about their well-being and it's my job to monitor my emotions and reactions, not their role." — MyDogCanSploot
"I’m a support worker (social worker) not a therapist. I've had clients too scared to tell me their accomplishments because they think they should only be bringing their problems to case management and that if we see them getting better that we won’t care/prioritize them as much. Another is hard drugs. We don't endorse it by any means but we have to know if we need to keep an eye out for inappropriate behavior and overdoses. We never get mad at them for being high, we just wanna send them to their room to sober up." — sadbisexualbean
"Usually it’s sex-related. Shame about their desires or kinks is common. Gender questioning is another. Some people are ashamed of things they did in childhood or adolescence, haven't ever told anyone and think the team will be horrified. We have heard everything. Everything. I'm always compassionate and always understand why we do the things we do. I've yet to have anyone bring something I can't 'get'." — throwaway4u2021