How To Talk To Your Partner About Your Mental Health Condition

As of 2019, 970 million people worldwide were living with a mental health condition, and of those disorders, depression and anxiety were at the top of the list. By 2020, the number of people struggling with depression and anxiety skyrocketed as the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic (via the World Health Organization). The uncertainty of what was to come, as well as the mass number of human losses, contributed to the increase of these disorders.

Although mental health conditions have been on the rise in recent years, the one good thing to come of it is that, finally, as a society, we're addressing mental health in an honest and open way. Not only is this helping to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health conditions but it's also shedding light on the fact that no one is immune to it. Anyone, at any point in their life, can become afflicted by depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

But while we have come a long way in how we talk about these disorders, it doesn't mean that disclosing this information to someone you're dating is an easy thing to do. However, it's also something that needs to be done; you can't try to hide your mental health issues from someone with whom you're trying to create an intimate bond. "If you feel like they are a good candidate for the long term, you feel you can get very close to them, and they're someone you could potentially love, then you should tell them," clinical psychologist Michael Brustein, Psy.D., tells Self. But knowing how to go about it can be daunting.

Know the ins and outs of your mental health condition

For example, if you've lived with depression for the majority of your life, then there's a very good chance you can accurately explain it to someone else. While some forms of depression — or any mental illness for that matter — are more severe than others, you should know where you are on the spectrum of that severity and be able to communicate that (via Metro). Accurately explaining to your partner how your mental health illness affects you and may affect the relationship is essential. "You can let them know what has worked and hasn't worked in the past," psychotherapist and relationship expert Dr. Gary Brown tells Bustle. "This is an ideal time to let them know what they can say and do that would be helpful ... and also what might not be helpful."

Also, take into consideration that if your partner has never struggled with mental health conditions, either personally or with a close friend or family member, you might get a lot of questions. That's why you really want to understand your own situation. This way, you can prepare them for what might be in the future: bad days where you can't get out of bed, panic attacks, or breakdowns for no apparent reason, which can happen quite often for some people no matter how medicated they might be. And this isn't your fault! But if you communicate it with your partner, they'll understand you better and be able to better help in the moment.

Remember that timing is everything

Should you drop your struggles with mental illness on the first date? Probably not, unless you feel comfortable enough. Should you text it to them a month into dating? Also, probably not — face-to-face is better for these things. "Once you have a foundation of mutual love, trust and intimacy, set up a quiet time alone," life coach Nick Hatter tells Men's Health. "It does not have to be a dramatic reveal, however, it's probably best not to disclose it over the phone... You don't have to reveal every skeleton in the closet or your whole life story yet... Avoid going into intensity and dramatic revelations too quickly."

While telling your partner you need to make time to talk to them about something important can feel like you're setting up a dramatic situation, play it cool. As Hatter says, drama is unnecessary and can do more harm than good, especially considering how many people have mental health conditions in the world. When you're ready to tell them and have chosen quiet, alone time to be candid about it, you want to use the "sandwich" strategy. With the sandwich strategy, you put what would be considered bad news in between two pieces of good news and then ultimately end on a positive note (via the National Alliance on Mental Health).

What can be most intimidating about sharing your mental illness with a partner is the fear that they'll respond negatively. While you should prepare for that, also know that if someone is willing to let you go because of an illness that affects hundreds of millions of people, then that person isn't for you. We all have our baggage. It's accepting each other's baggage and realizing no one's perfect that makes a relationship work.