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'Oversharing' Personal Health Information Isn't Bad Manners — It's Helpful

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health & Sex Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist, adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling...

Why people who 'overshare' personal health information are actually doing us all a service

We all know an "oversharer" — someone who has no shame when it comes to telling you all about their personal health conditions. Maybe you're an oversharer yourself. While providing specific details about your struggles with IBS or flaky skin may be deemed inappropriate in certain social circles, by openly talking about health issues, people who overshare are actually providing an important service for everyone.

A new study published in the journal Nature Sustainability found that informal boundary spanners (the fancy name for oversharers) in an organization may be more receptive to new information and ideas, and more likely to share it with coworkers, regardless of what department they usually work in or whether they're all actually involved with the relevant project.

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While the study focused on information spreading through organizations, the same logic can be applied to people who share health information. When topics are thought to be areas we need to keep to ourselves — whether it's mental health, bathroom problems or menstrual pain — people tend not to talk about them. Though many do this in the name of being "polite," what they're actually doing is further stigmatizing these topics, adding to the already existing shame surrounding them.

More: Talking About Depression Is Good — Investing in Mental Health Is Better

So when people "overshare," they're not only normalizing body- and mind-related topics so others get used to hearing them in everyday conversation, they also inadvertently spread information — whether that's in the form of discussing specific symptoms or understanding different treatment options.

Chrissy Teigen is a great example of this: By sharing specific health struggles with fertility, mental health and body-shaming (among others), she's showing people these are a completely normal part of everyday life and not a reason to be embarrassed.

We're already starting to do this increasingly in the areas of mental health and periods, but that's just the beginning. So, next time you have the urge to tell someone about a health condition or symptom, feel free to do so, confident that even though they may be temporarily uncomfortable, ultimately, you are helping to destigmatize the conversation and help inform others.

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