First dates are supposed to be exciting – but when you have a mental illness, the fun of dinner and drinks and the chemistry between the two of you can be dwarfed by worrying over how your date will react when you open up about your condition. If you tell him too soon, you might scare him off. Wait too long, and you run the risk of her feeling misled. So what do you do?
Molly Pohlig, a 36-year-old New Yorker, has depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder – conditions she says have made dating difficult in the past. “Several people were taken aback,” she says, “and I’ve had some relationships or dates end pretty abruptly because of it.”
But Bradley Erford, a past president of the American Counseling Association and professor in the school counseling program at Loyola University in Maryland, says more people have experience with mental illness than you’d think. One in 17 Americans, or 13.6 million people, live with a serious mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The good news is there are millions of people with mental illnesses – many of whom don’t even know it – who are in stable, loving relationships, Erford says. “Most people with mental disorders are undiagnosed and untreated,” he says, “so many are already in significant relationships without either partner knowing.”
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