Do you often find yourself telling people too much information about your life than you should? Or maybe, you’re frequently placed in positions where friends, family, and loved ones always trauma-dump on you as if you’re their on-call therapist?
Whether you’re typically on the giving or receiving end of inappropriate information overload, disclosing too many personal details to certain people can be detrimental to your life and relationships. The therapist’s office is a safe space for oversharing, but it can bring a sense of discomfort to friends and family members who simply just want to kick it with you, or colleagues who may not care to know your business.
Oversharing may feel great at the moment but may lead to future consequences if you’re spilling your tea in not-so-safe spaces. Some people may choose to leverage the information to their advantage, or even worse, use it against you to either exploit your weaknesses or manipulate situations in their favor. It also leaves room for people to judge or criticize you, which could bring unnecessary drama to your life that you never wanted. This could only cause damage to your mental health, but you can avoid this scenario by learning to share less.
This article takes a deep dive into the psychology of oversharing. It features common examples and signs of oversharing, as well as tips on how to dial back on what you reveal.
TMI Alert: Examples and Signs of Oversharing
Oversharing can look like:
- Disclosing intimate details that you don’t want getting out to the public
- Unhealthy venting in times of stress or emotional difficulty
- Quickly confiding in total strangers or people you just meet
For some, it can be difficult to even recognize when you’re oversharing. These are ways that you can tell, according to Connecticut and Florida-based psychotherapist Dr. Dani Moye, LMFT. “Sometimes when we overshare, we make others uncomfortable, what we may notice is that they are pulling back a bit,” she said. “Additionally, if you gossip as a form of oversharing, some friends may no longer share things about their lives with you, as often as they did before.”
Oversharing may cause you to feel a sense of relief in the moment, but you may later experience feelings of regret, embarrassment, or shame if you aren’t careful. The act of oversharing may also lead to feelings of isolation if others begin to distance themselves from you, and in some cases trigger anxiety or depression due to the potential repercussions.
What’s the Psychology Behind Oversharing?
People overshare for various reasons. Some might do it to “enhance the closeness of a very short-term relationship,” or their actions may be rooted in a “lack [of] the appropriate skills to allow connection to build over time,” says Dr. Moye. This can stem from a yearning for attention or validation, which may cause the oversharer to feel that being open and honest about their experiences will make them more relatable and help them form deeper connections.
“Some people get a dopamine high off of [oversharing], adds Kimberly Parker, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker based in Virginia. “Many times, it’s coming from a good place,” she added. Relatability creates a sense of belonging and knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles. Craving reassurance that you’re thinking straight or headed in the right direction is a natural part of life. Thus, the person who tends to overshare may think that it’s an effective way to accomplish both goals.
Others may overshare as a way to gain control over a situation. Oversharing may also be due to a lack of social skills or awareness of social boundaries. “Some people have not learned the appropriate way to maintain or establish relational boundaries,” Dr. Moye shared, explaining why some use it as a coping mechanism for something deeper.
Breaking the Cycle of Oversharing Syndrome
Social media has made it easier than ever to overshare, and many oversharers leverage social media to share every detail of their lives. They may post excessively about their relationships, health problems, or political views. While oversharing on social media can be a great way to connect with others, going overboard can have negative consequences. It may lead to a loss of privacy, cyberbullying, and a possible job loss if employers see inappropriate posts.
Let’s just face it: Social media has normalized oversharing to the point where people are comfortable with sharing unhealthy amounts of their personal business with total strangers. This may explain why boundaries have become a foreign concept, warranting more education on the subject. It’s easy to fall into this trap for views, likes, and comments of affection, but there comes a time when you have to evaluate whether it’s really worth your privacy and peace of mind.
As a reminder, no one is entitled to aspects of your life that you don’t want them to know.
Don’t get us wrong: there’s nothing wrong with sharing details that you’re comfortable disclosing publicly with aim to free your conscious or empower others. But if it’s simply a way to compensate for stress, anxiety, unhealed trauma, or other mental health challenges, it might be time to seek treatment from a licensed mental health therapist.
If you feel like you’re oversharing, there are steps you can take to stop. Here are some practical tips and tricks to help you stop oversharing:
- Practice active listening. Take the time to listen to others before jumping in to share your own experiences.
- Set boundaries for self. Decide what you’re comfortable sharing and what you’re not.
- Pause before sharing. Take a moment to consider whether what you’re about to share is appropriate for the situation.
- Find other ways to connect. Try finding common interests with others instead of relying on oversharing to connect.
- Seek support. Talk to a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling to stop oversharing.
Dr. Moye adds that you should also “pay close attention to the social cues of others, as well as the pacing of disclosure within their daily interactions.”
Therapy sessions can be a powerful tool for reducing oversharing behavior. A therapist can help you identify the underlying causes of your oversharing and develop strategies for managing it. “ I would also have them practice role-playing in session, to develop the skills of active listening and asking questions,” Dr. Moye says. Therapists can also help you build healthy relationships by teaching you how to communicate effectively and set boundaries.