Elizabeth Yuko | Lifehacker
Dating can be tricky for anyone, but for those living with mental illness things can get a little more complicated. Putting aside how having an anxiety disorder makes the whole process much harder—you’re deliberately introducing new potential sources of anxiety into your life—there’s also the issue of how and when to talk about mental illness with the person you’re dating. Is it possible to do that too soon? What if you leave it for too late? And what about stigma? We spoke with several mental health experts to find out.
Let’s start with the ideal point in a relationship to bring up the fact that you live with a mental illness. Turns out, there really isn’t one, nor is there a set timeline for disclosing other personal information while you start dating. For the most part, the mental health professionals we interviewed said that it all depends on the nature of the relationship, how comfortable you are with the person, and where you see the relationship going.
According to Dr. Wilfred Van Gorp, a psychologist and the former president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, this conversation should happen “at the point you trust the person sufficiently that you wish to take the relationship to a deeper level.” Similarly, Dr. Leela R. Magavi, M.D., an adult, adolescent, and child psychiatrist and regional medical director at Community Psychiatry, says that prior to disclosing personal information—like any mental illness—you should make sure that the person you’re dating respects and values you. Sometimes this can take a month, other times it can take a year, she explains, noting that each relationship is unique.
Meanwhile, Dr. Julian Lagoy, another psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry, advises against discussing your mental illness on a first date. Instead, he recommends waiting until things start getting serious and you’re considering more of a long-term and permanent relationship or marriage. “Obviously it is very hard to bring up something like this to a new partner,” Lagoy tells Lifehacker. “However, it is even worse if you never tell them about it, and then you get married or have been together for many years and they find out about it another way.”
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