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When to disclose your mood disorder

FriendsThis is a really difficult question. Choosing the right person and the right timing to reveal something about your mood disorder can be tricky. Who you disclose to, if and whether you do, when you do, and just how much information to give them are all very difficult decisions. It is a private, individual decision that may often cause you distress and anxiety!

The experience of disclosing personal medical or psychiatric information is different for each of us. It depends first on your relationship with the person. For example, with most family members and some VERY close friends you may want to tell them your diagnosis and that you are receiving appropriate treatment, if they are open to hearing it and being supportive. If they cannot be supportive, then it is not helpful to you to disclose this kind of private information. Social friends, distant relatives, and acquaintances have no need to know. Co-workers don’t need to know unless there is something going on that impacts them and/or their safety. Some examples of this include construction work on a scaffold, a bus or train driver, if you are responsible for patient care and dispense medications, or if you are responsible taking care of babies and small children in your job.

As far as telling your boss or supervisor, you might say that you have a biologically-based illness that can impact your functioning and needs treatment for you to continue to do well in your job. You do not need to tell him what it is or that it is a psychiatric illness. If you do say anything, the less personal detail the better. If in your job your physical safety is an issue, such as in high construction or firefighting, then you have to discuss it with your supervisor and reassure him that both you and your co-workers are going to be safe. Tell him that the treatment requires you to attend a certain number of appointments in the next few months. Emphasize that you are very interested in your position (or the department or company) and are committed to doing a good job. Then do your best to remain calm while working and make your best effort while on the job. Know that some employers may arrange to have their employees take a medical leave of absence if they need extensive or prolonged treatment, and by law they are obliged to hold your job for you.

Try to get as many of your mental health appointments scheduled at the very beginning or end of the day, after work hours, or on your day off. This way you can then go in to work an hour later and leave an hour later than usual – not generally a big problem unless you have to be home for small children. This will interfere less with your job and your boss or co-workers won’t have to cover for your absence as much.

Try to be careful about how much you tell a person at the very beginning. Remind them that this is a conversation in confidence. Your best approach may be to go slow, speak in simple language, and give them a little bit of information at a time. Then see how they handle receiving that and if they remain supportive. Gradually you can then add on more detail as they can accept it. If they ask questions, respond directly, if you know the answer.


Stay well!

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