9 DISEASES PEOPLE KEEP SECRET: Check out #5

When the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs made news on Oct. 5, 2011, people across the nation reacted with shock, sorrow, and admiration for the technology pioneer’s cutting-edge ideas and products. “Steve Jobs changed the world” was a common theme across Twitter, Facebook, and newsstands.

Pancreatic cancer takes the lives of more than 95 percent of patients within five years — and in recent years it has claimed the lives of actor Patrick Swayze and Carnegie Mellon, computer science professor, and YouTube sensation Randy Pausch, among others.

Still, we were shocked to hear that Jobs had died. One reason for our surprise… Though his seven-year battle with cancer sparked an ongoing rumor mill about his health, Jobs mostly kept quiet about his disease, revealing only minimal information. Whether that was for business reasons (to avoid hurting Apple’s stock price, perhaps) or because he was an intensely private person, we probably will never know. But he’s certainly not the only one — millions of Americans stay hush-hush about illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and depression.

Here’s a look at the most common diseases people keep secret — and why.

1 Cancer Stigma – Steve Jobs may have kept quiet about his pancreatic cancer diagnosis because of the potential effects it could have on Apple, or because he was an intensely private person. But others keep cancer a secret for another unfortunate reason — stigma.

2 Diabetes Discrimination – A recent survey carried out by Diabetes UK found that nearly 34 percent of people with diabetes in the United Kingdom keep it a secret — 59 percent of these respondents had not revealed their health status at work, and 56 percent of them had not told their friends. Why?

3 Living in Silence With Mental Illness – Sure, a chronic or terminal physical disease may be hard to talk about — but one type of disease carries an even greater stigma: mental illness. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans has a mental disorder — but nearly two-thirds of them live in silence and go without treatment, due to stigma surrounding mental illness. “Unfortunately, it’s still not ‘okay’ to have depression or to be bipolar in our society,” says Harrison.

4 The ‘Character Flaw’ of Addiction – A dependence on drugs and alcohol carries one of the biggest stigmas of any disease — that’s because most people assume addiction is something that could have been easily prevented. The good news? A recent survey from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that, even though drug addiction stigma is still prevalent, more people than ever are beginning to see it as an illness — not a character flaw.

5 Dementia: Difficult to Accept – Dementia is a progressive disease characterized by symptoms that range from mild memory loss to severe cognitive difficulties, which make it hard to manage daily activities without help. No matter what the stage, dementia can be terrifying and difficult to accept.

However, letting people know what is going on with you can help them understand why you’re acting in new and unexpected ways. Sharing your diagnosis, particularly with those closest to you, also allows everyone to talk about the future, help you maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible, and resolve any stigma before you lose the ability to voice your opinion.

6 Eating Disorders: Closet Conditions – For many people with eating disorders, keeping their condition a secret is actually a hallmark of the disease — they become so successful at secrecy that the very idea of talking about their eating habits is terrifying.

7 The Shame of STDs – No one wants to fess up about having a sexually transmitted disease — and, in most cases, it’s okay to keep this one on the QT from your co-workers and even your family members (unless you need help with some aspect of treatment).

8 Afraid of Revealing Asthma – Who would want to keep asthma a secret? Anyone who feels the psychological and physical tolls of the disease, which often hinders people from engaging in activities that could trigger an attack.

9 Private About Pregnancy – Though it’s certainly not a disease, many women keep pregnancy a secret — in fact, the right time to disclose a pregnancy is a hotly debated topic. The truth will become evident soon enough, but Harrison says it’s best for your employer and your team if you let them know once you have passed the 12-week mark and are at a reduced risk of miscarriage.

An excerpt from Everyday Health /Beck Diefenbach/REUTERS