The relatively little research on disclosure of mental illness has mainly presented the perspective of the individual who copes with a mental illness. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of the phenomenon of serious mental illness disclosure during dating from the perspective of the person to whom the information was disclosed. In-depth semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with five participants, and the transcripts were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. The findings indicated that the participants who experienced late and partial disclosure had more negative reactions than those who experienced early and full disclosure. Disclosure of a mental illness within the context of dating relationship seems to have implications on the intimate partner and the relationship. The findings highlight the need to support dating couples where one of the partners copes with a mental illness. This support should be provided at an early stage of the relationship.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Alegría, C. A. (2010). Relationship challenges and relationship maintenance activities following disclosure of transsexualism. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 17, 909–916.
Alegría, C. A. (2013). Relational and sexual fluidity in females partnered with male-to-female transsexual persons. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 20, 142–149.
Altman, I., & Taylor, D. A. (1973). Social penetration: the development of interpersonal relationships. Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Bland, R. & Darlington, Y. (2002). The nature and sources of hope: perspectives of family caregivers of people with serious mental illness. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 38(2), 61–68.
Berg, J. H., & Clark, M. S. (1986). Differences in social exchange between intimate and other relationships: gradually evolving or quickly apparent? Friendship and social interaction (pp. 101–128): Springer.
Bos, A. E., Kanner, D., Muris, P., Janssen, B., & Mayer, B. (2009). Mental illness stigma and disclosure: consequences of coming out of the closet. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 30(8), 509–513.
Boschi, S., Adams, R. E., Bromet, E. J., Lavelle, J. E., Everett, E., & Galambos, N. (2000). Coping with psychotic symptoms in the early phases of schizophrenia. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70(2), 242–252.
Breslau, J., Miller, E., Jin, R., Sampson, N. A., Alonso, J., Andrade, L. H., et al. (2011). A multinational study of mental disorders, marriage, and divorce. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 124(6), 474–486.
Bril-Barniv, S., Moran, G. S., Naaman, A., Roe, D., & Karnieli-Miller, O. (2017). A qualitative study examining experiences and dilemmas in concealment and disclosure of people living with serious mental illness. Qualitative Health Research, 27(4), 573–583.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: a theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(2), 267–283.
Case, D. O., Andrews, J. E., Johnson, J. D., & Allard, S. L. (2005). Avoiding versus seeking: the relationship of information seeking to avoidance, blunting, coping, dissonance, and related concepts. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 93(3), 353–362.
Chang, K. H., & Horrocks, S. (2006). Lived experiences of family caregivers of mentally ill relatives. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 53(4), 435–443.
Chaudoir, S. R., Fisher, J. D., & Simoni, J. M. (2011). Understanding HIV disclosure: a review and application of the disclosure processes model. Social Science & Medicine, 72(10), 1618–1629.
Chaudoir, S. R., & Quinn, D. M. (2010). Revealing concealable stigmatized identities: the impact of disclosure motivations and positive first-disclosure experiences on fear of disclosure and well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 66(3), 570–584.
Corrigan, P. W., & Al-Khouja, M. A. (2018). Three agendas for changing the public stigma of mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 41(1), 1–7.
Dane, S. K., Masser, B. M., MacDonald, G., & Duck, J. M. (2015). When “in your face” is not out of place: the effect of timing of disclosure of a same-sex dating partner under conditions of contact. PLoS One, 10(8), e0135023.
Derlaga, V. J., & Berg, J. H. (2013). Self-disclosure: theory, research, and therapy. Springer.
Derlega, V. J., Winstead, B. A., & Greene, K. (2008). Self-disclosure and starting a close relationship. Handbook of relationship beginnings, 153–174.
England, M. R. (2016). Being open in academia: a personal narrative of mental illness and disclosure. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 60(2), 226–231.
Farber, B. A. (2006). Self-disclosure in psychotherapy. Guilford.
Felton, B., & Tracey, A. (1985). Coping with chronic illness: a study of illness controllability and the influence of coping strategies on psychological adjustment. Pain, 22(2), 216.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Fulginiti, A., Pahwa, R., Frey, L. M., Rice, E., & Brekke, J. S. (2016). What factors influence the decision to share suicidal thoughts? A multilevel social network analysis of disclosure among individuals with serious mental illness. Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior, 46(4), 398–412.
Hebl, M. R., Tickle, J., & Heatherton, T. F. (2000). Awkward moments in interactions between nonstigmatized and stigmatized individuals. In T. F. Heatherton, R. E. Kleck, M. R. Hebl, & J. G. Hull (Eds.), The social psychology of stigma (pp. 275-306). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
Hook, M. K., Gerstein, L. H., Detterich, L., & Gridley, B. (2003). How close are we? Measuring intimacy and examining gender differences. Journal of Counseling & Development, 81(4), 462–472.
Joachim, G., & Acorn, S. (2000). Stigma of visible and invisible chronic conditions. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32(1), 243–248.
Jones, A. M. (2011). Disclosure of mental illness in the workplace: a literature review. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 14(3), 212–229.
Jorm, A. F. (2011). Public knowledge and awareness about mental illnesses. Oxford textbook of community mental health. Oxford University Press.
Karnieli-Miller, O., Perlick, D. A., Nelson, A., Mattias, K., Corrigan, P., & Roe, D. (2013). Family members’ of persons living with a serious mental illness: experiences and efforts to cope with stigma. Journal of Mental Health, 22(3), 254–262.
Kessler, R. C., Amminger, G. P., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Lee, S., & Üstün, T. B. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 20(4), 359–364. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0b013e32816ebc8c.
Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry., 62, 593–602. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593.
Kogan, J. N., Otto, M. W., Bauer, M. S., Dennehy, E. B., Miklowitz, D. J., Zhang, H. W., et al. (2004). Demographic and diagnostic characteristics of the first 1000 patients enrolled in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD). Bipolar Disorders, 6(6), 460–469.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
Lingsom, S. (2008). Invisible impairments: dilemmas of concealment and disclosure. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 10(1), 2–16.
Lyons, B. J., Volpone, S. D., Wessel, J. L., & Alonso, N. M. (2017). Disclosing a disability: do strategy type and onset controllability make a difference?
Moos, R. H., & Holahan, C. J. (2007). Adaptive tasks and methods of coping with illness and disability. Coping with chronic illness and disability (pp. 107–126): Springer.
Moos, R. H., & Schaefer, J. A. (1993). Coping resources and processes: current concepts and measures.
Pachankis, J. E. (2007). The psychological implications of concealing a stigma: a cognitive-affective-behavioral model. Psychological Bulletin, 133(2), 328–345.
Pahwa, R., Fulginiti, A., Brekke, J. S., & Rice, E. (2017). Mental illness disclosure decision making. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(5), 575–584.
Peterson, D., Currey, N., & Collings, S. (2011). “You don’t look like one of them”: disclosure of mental illness in the workplace as an ongoing dilemma. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 35(2), 145–147.
Price, M., Salzer, M. S., O'Shea, A., & Kerschbaum, S. L. (2017). Disclosure of mental disability by college and university faculty: the negotiation of accommodations, supports, and barriers. Disability Studies Quarterly, 37(2).
Prince, M. J. (2017). Persons with invisible disabilities and workplace accommodation: findings from a scoping literature review. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 46(1), 75–86.
Robinson, N. M. (2012). To tell or not to tell: factors in self-disclosing mental illness in our everyday relationships.
Rodham, K., Fox, F., & Doran, N. (2015). Exploring analytical trustworthiness and the process of reaching consensus in interpretative phenomenological analysis: lost in transcription. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18(1), 59–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2013.852368.
Rose, L., Mallinson, R. K., & Walton-Moss, B. (2002). A grounded theory of families responding to mental illness. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 24(5), 516–536.
Rüsch, N., Brohan, E., Gabbidon, J., Thornicroft, G., & Clement, S. (2014). Stigma and disclosing one’s mental illness to family and friends. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49(7), 1157–1160.
Schwarzer, R., & Taubert, S. (2002). Tenacious goal pursuits and striving toward personal growth: proactive coping. Paper presented at the Beyond coping: meeting goals, visions and challenges.
Seeman, M. V. (2013). When and how should I tell? Personal disclosure of a schizophrenia diagnosis in the context of intimate relationships. Psychiatric Quarterly, 84(1), 93–102.
Skundberg-Kletthagen, H., Wangensteen, S., Hall-Lord, M. L., & Hedelin, B. (2014). Relatives of patients with depression: experiences of everyday life. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 28(3), 564–571.
Smith J. A. & Osborn M. (2003). Interpretative phenomenological analysis. In: (ed Smith JA) Qualitative psychology: a practical guide to methods, Sage, London.
Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: theory method and research. London: Sage.
Smith, R., Rossetto, K., & Peterson, B. L. (2008). A meta-analysis of disclosure of one’s HIV-positive status, stigma and social support. AIDS Care, 20(10), 1266–1275.
Sprecher, S., & Hendrick, S. S. (2004). Self-disclosure in intimate relationships: associations with individual and relationship characteristics over time. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(6), 857–877.
Steffens, B. A., & Rennie, R. L. (2006). The traumatic nature of disclosure for wives of sexual addicts. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 13(2–3), 247–267.
Stuart, H., & Arboleda-Flórez, J. (2012). A public health perspective on the stigmatization of mental illnesses. Public Health Reviews, 34(2), 12.
Tal, A., Roe, D., & Corrigan, P. W. (2007). Mental illness stigma in the Israeli context: deliberations and suggestions. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 53(6), 547–563.
Tandi Lwoga, E., & Florence Mosha, N. (2013). Information seeking behaviour of parents and caregivers of children with mental illness in Tanzania. Library Review, 62(8/9), 567–584.
Trinidad, S. B., & Starks, H. (2007). Choose your method: a comparison of and grounded theory. Qualitative Health Research, 17(10), 1372–1380. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732307307031.
Venville, A., Street, A., & Fossey, E. (2014). Student perspectives on disclosure of mental illness in post-compulsory education: displacing doxa. Disability & Society, 29(5), 792–806.
Watts, C., Watts, P., Collier, E., & Ashmore, R. (2017). The impact on relationships following disclosure of transgenderism: a wife’s tale. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 24, 302–310.
Waugh, W., Lethem, C., Sherring, S., & Henderson, C. (2017). Exploring experiences of and attitudes towards mental illness and disclosure amongst health care professionals: a qualitative study. Journal of Mental Health, 1–7.
Wittmund, B., Wilms, H.-U., Mory, C., & Angermeyer, M. C. (2002). Depressive disorders in spouses of mentally ill patients. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37(4), 177–182.
Yardley, L. (2008). Demonstrating validity in qualitative psychology. In J. A. Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: a practical guide to methods (2nd ed., pp. 235–251). London: Sage.
We are very grateful to the individuals who volunteered and participated in our study.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national). Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.
The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel (reference number 091/14).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Shpigelman, C., Roe, D., Konopny-Decleve, L. et al. Disclosing Mental Illness During Dating: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Partners’ Experience. Int J Ment Health Addiction 17, 1312–1327 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-018-0046-y
- Mental illness
- Intimate relationship
- Interpretative phenomenological analysis