How to Disclose Your Mental Health Condition to a Partner

Two women are sitting in the living room talking

MStudioImages / Getty Images

If you have a mental health condition, you may worry about disclosing it to your partner. The decreasing yet still present stigma around mental health conditions can make it difficult for you to decide if, when, and how to tell your partner about it. You may wonder when to bring it up, what to say to them, and what their reaction will be. 

Just like other medical conditions, a mental health condition isn’t something you should have to hide. Disclosure helps promote honesty, transparency, and communication in the relationship, and prevents misunderstandings and unnecessary tensions, says Claudia de Llano, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

While the prospect of telling your partner about your condition can be daunting, it could help deepen the understanding, compassion, and care between you. Besides, withholding information about yourself that can have a direct impact on the relationship is not fair to your partner, according to de Llano. Disclosing your condition to your partner can give them an opportunity to support you and learn how to better love you, which can be strengthening for your relationship.

Claudia de Llano, LMFT

Sharing your mental health condition with your partner can be an invitation to learn about you, your struggles, and your resilience—these factors can contribute to the intimacy of the relationship.

— Claudia de Llano, LMFT

This article suggests some strategies that can help you decide when and how to disclose your mental health condition to your partner.

When to Disclose Your Mental Health Condition

These are a few suggestions for when to disclose your mental health condition to your partner, according to de Llano:

  • When you’re comfortable with them: Some people find it helpful to wait until they are sure of their feelings for their partner and know them well enough to determine that they’re a compassionate and supportive individual. If you’ve spent enough time with your partner to become comfortable with them, you may feel ready to disclose your condition.
  • When you’ve come to terms with your condition: You may feel like you need to understand and process the knowledge of what you are going through on your own first. Once you’ve come to terms with your condition, you may feel better equipped to share it with a partner.
  • When you discover your condition: Alternatively, you may prefer to share your condition with your partner from the get-go, so you have their support while you process it. This is often the case for people who are already in a long-term relationship when they discover their condition.
  • When the condition becomes apparent: Mental health issues can unfold or reveal themselves at any time in a relationship. Your partner may notice changes in your behavior and ask you about them. Or, something may happen when you’re with them. While you may not be able to discuss your condition when your symptoms are severe, you can have the conversation with your partner afterward when you feel better. 
  • When you need support: On the other hand, if your symptoms become severe, you may choose to disclose your condition to your partner if you need their support.
  • When other health conditions are being discussed: If you and your partner are discussing physical health conditions, you can bring up your mental health condition too. If you and your partner are building trust and communication in the relationship, then the disclosure of mental health should not be different from the disclosure of physical health.

Claudia de Llano, LMFT

There is no right or wrong time to have this conversation; it’s deeply personal to each individual and everyone is entitled to their boundaries.

— Claudia de Llano, LMFT

For instance, some people may prefer to wait until the intimate connection is secure, while others may want to disclose it upfront—the timing is really up to the comfort of the person grappling with their mental health, says de Llano.

How to Disclose Your Mental Health Condition

These are some strategies that can be helpful while disclosing your mental health condition to your partner.

Tell Your Partner You'd Like to Share Something Personal With Them

Invite your partner to join you and let them know you would like to share something personal about yourself with them.

You could say: “I trust and care about you and need to tell you something important about me. This is difficult for me to share because it makes me feel vulnerable and I'd really appreciate your support. Thank you for listening and doing your best to understand."

This step is known as process talk, where you’re telling your partner about the conversation to come, rather than sharing information about your condition. Process talk can help prepare your partner for the conversation ahead.

Avoid Fishing 

What you want to avoid is fishing or setting your partner up, says de Llano. For instance, she says to avoid leading with questions like “How do you feel about mental health?” or “What do you think of people with X condition?”

That’s a setup that can lead down the wrong path, says de Llano.

Be Direct and Honest

Tell your partner about your condition in a direct and straightforward manner. For instance, de Llano says the dialogue can be something like this: “I live with X condition. This is not who I am, but something that impacts my life. These are some of the symptoms I experience…”

Share Examples

Everyone experiences mental health conditions differently. It can be helpful to share some concrete examples of your symptoms with your partner, so they can understand your experience of the condition.

For instance, you could say: “I sometimes feel so anxious that it can be difficult to function. I can’t focus on my work, and that makes me more anxious.”

Ask If They Have Questions

De Llano suggests asking your partner how they’re feeling, if they have any questions for you, and if they’re interested in learning more about your condition. This can help them participate in the conversation, clarify any questions they have about your condition, and make it easier for them to ask you follow-up questions later on.

If they ask questions you don’t have answers to, don’t feel pressured to answer right away; you can express how difficult the disclosure was and ask for a reasonable time to check and get back to them to discuss further, says de Llano.

If there are parts of your experience you don’t want to share, you can say “I don’t want to talk about that right now” or “I’m not comfortable talking about that yet.”

Check in With Yourself

Self-care is important at a time like this, says de Llano. She recommends taking a few moments to check in with yourself and see how you feel. If you felt challenged by the disclosure, she says it’s important to acknowledge yourself for being brave and transparent.

Practice the Conversation

If you’re feeling nervous about having this conversation with your partner, it may be helpful to plan what you’re going to say in advance and practice it either by yourself or with a close friend, family member, or therapist.

A Word From Verywell

Disclosing your mental health condition to your partner can be nerve-wracking. However, if you want to have the chance to be fully seen and more deeply understood and supported, it's important to tell them about your condition. It's a part of you, and over time, it can be difficult and stressful to hide from a significant other.

Hopefully through courageous sharing and compassionate receiving, your partner will empathize with and support you, committing to your continued growth together. If you're with the right person, sharing your experiences can strengthen the relationship by building trust and mutual support.

There is a chance they may be uncomfortable with your mental health condition. Over time, they may become increasingly understanding with effort and care, or they may not. What's most important is that you're honest and loving toward yourself no matter your partner's reaction, says de Llano.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rüsch N, Malzer A, Oexle N, et al. Disclosure and quality of life among unemployed individuals with mental health problems: a longitudinal study. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2019;207(3):137-139. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000914

  2. Reavley NJ, Morgan AJ, Jorm AF. Disclosure of mental health problems: findings from an Australian national survey. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2017;27(4):346-356. doi:10.1017/S204579601600113X

Additional Reading

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.