Sharing vs. Oversharing: Talking to coworkers about post-deployment health issues

Sharing vs. Oversharing: Talking to coworkers about post-deployment health issues

Author: Dr. Julie T. Kinn is a clinical and research psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2). She oversees development and utilization of Web-based psychological health resources.

Social support, the feeling that others care about you, helps improve our moods and keeps us healthy. Support comes in many forms. Some people don't need long, heart-felt discussions with friends and family... just knowing they are around is enough. I know plenty of folks who talk to their friends once in awhile about sports or music, and that's plenty to keep them feeling connected.

Others need more. Some people want to discuss feelings, and feel closer to friends and family when they have shared current struggles. If you fall into this group, it's healthy to talk about mTBI, post-traumatic stress, depression, and other common post-deployment health issues.

But, where do coworkers fit in? If you fall into the need-to-talk-about-it group, you could be at risk of oversharing. Before you disclose your mental and physical health issues to others at work, ask yourself why you want to share. Let's look at a few possible scenarios:

  • Sharing because your health issues affect your work performance or require certain accomodations. First talk to your human resources representative about the appropriate way to ensure you can do your job. Your supervisor doesn't need to know specifics unless you feel comfortable having that conversation.

  • Sharing because you want to break the ice with a new coworker. Oversharing is a socal short cut. People use it to quickly get close to others instead of letting relationships develop naturally over time. Oversharing can make others uncomfortable, and often has the oppostite effect. If you find you want to share details about your health because you hope others will like you more, it might be a good time to consider your boundaries and think about other ways of developing friendships.

  • Sharing because you need social support. First try sharing with others outside of work, and see if those relationships help meet this need. If you have been friends with a coworker for a while, and have a trusting relationship, it makes sense to share information about your health. However, keep in mind that once you have disclosed personal information, there's no turning back. That information is out there forever. If you are craving a personal connection, check out the booklet on building healthy relationships.

What tips do you have for knowing when to share?

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