It can be challenging to figure out what you should tell the person you’re dating about yourself to begin with, especially if you have depression. Should you hide anything, including any health conditions, or just let them find out certain tidbits later, or disclose everything from the start? Experts share some of their own advice and tips on how to deal with this potentially sticky situation.
Max Shapey, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Illinois, said in an email that he doesn’t think it’s necessary to tell someone on a first date about your depression.
“Don't bring it up on the first date: you don't even know if you like the other person yet,” Shapey said. “Depression is not a dread disease; if you're going out on a blind date and your life expectancy is three months, that should probably come up in the conversation.”
It’s OK to divulge information if you think it’s obvious to them and if you need to explain any abnormal behavior, but it’s important to consider the type of person you’re dealing with as well.
“You need to feel safe with the other person to talk about it: it is personal after all,” Shapey said. If the other person seems to be caring and understanding, and doesn’t seem to judge others harshly, it might not be the worst thing you could do to tell them about your depression.
Realistically, depression isn’t an attractive characteristic or mental state, and you have to realize that to some extent.
“But for someone who is depressed but doesn't appear depressed because of treatment and so on, it becomes a different situation,” Shapey said.
Having depression doesn’t mean you need to lie or avoid the topic forever with someone you’re dating.
“By waiting to reveal depression it allows the other person to develop an opinion about you - presumably a favorable one - and that changes the context entirely,” Shapey said. “If you seem depressed and tell your date you're depressed it confirms something they already observed; however, if you don't appear depressed, the dissonance between what they have observed and what you reveal creates the opportunity to talk about your ‘victory’ over depression, or at the least the positive outcome of ongoing treatment.”
Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in an email that you should tell the person you’re dating about your depression within the first few dates.
“If the person is not supportive, they aren't the person for you anyway,” Raja said. “Let potential partners know how they can help you … If someone decides to join you in support, they could be a real keeper.”
Tina Tessina, a licensed psychotherapist in California, said in an email that it’s unnecessary to start the dating experience by relaying negative information about yourself – only if it’s a serious problem that’s affecting your life and daily functioning (and if you decide to become serious with the person you’re dating) is it advisable to tell them about your depression.
“You may or may not be depressed, but it's not the most important thing about you,” she said. “What he needs to know is that you take responsibility for getting and keeping yourself well, have been in therapy, and are handling the problem.”
Basically, consider what you divulge on an individual basis, and don’t be too hasty to spill your guts to someone on a first date. What do you think about talking about your depression to people you’re dating?
Shapey, Max. Email interview. August 9, 2011.
Raja, Sheela. Email interview. August 9, 2011.
Tessina, Tina. Email interview. August 9, 2011.
Reviewed August 10, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith