When should I tell about my disorder?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have recently started seeing someone. I’m very interested in him. I haven’t told him that I have schizoaffective disorder and PTSD. I’m also dealing with issues I have about the way I was separated out of the military(although I don’t think it’s necessary to tell him about that). My disorders’ at this point still affect my life I am only just learning to manage them. I haven’t had a relapse for about 5 months and am beginning a new job tomorrow so I will see how the stress affects me. I know that at some point this person will have to know, but how soon? I feel I am cheating him by not telling because what if he would never be involved with someone who has a mental disorder? When and how should I tell him about my disorder? Also, I’ve only known him for a month.

A: It’s a delicate matter of timing, isn’t it? You don’t want to scare someone away by revealing too much too soon. But you don’t want to mislead someone either. My experience is that it is best to confide in someone as soon as you feel that the relationship is moving into something potentially serious. In healthy relationships between adults, this is generally at about the 3 month mark. Sooner than that is a time when you’re just getting to know each other. At about 3 months, most people have an idea of whether they want to take something to the next level.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course. But I hope you will take it slow for at least 3 months so that you can build a solid friendship before trying to move into something more serious. That approach has a double benefit. If you share your issues with someone who is your friend, he is less likely to be put off by them. If, however, he doesn’t want to sign on for dealing with your illness, he may still want to be your friend. That’s not a bad thing. We can all use all the friends we can find.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Mar 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). When should I tell about my disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/03/25/when-should-i-tell-about-my-disorder/

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