3 Tips for Revealing You Have a Serious Health Diagnosis

A psychiatrist explains how to broach a tough conversation.

Loading the player...

Talking about serious health conditions with friends, family, and coworkers can be intimidating. Not only might you worry about their reaction, but you may feel uncomfortable discussing and thinking about the issue yourself.

Psychiatrist Susan Samuels, MD, has three tips for her patients about talking about your medical condition with loved ones:

  1. Set aside time for the conversation. This is not a conversation that you should squeeze in while you wait in line to order lunch. Pick a time and place when you will have privacy, quiet, comfort, and plenty of time for questions or discussion.

  1. Determine your audience. You do not need everyone in your life to know about this condition. Share with close friends and family. You do not need to tell coworkers, but if your condition will cause you to miss work occasionally or avoid certain activities, you might consider telling at least your boss or supervisor.

  1. Choose your words carefully. This conversation will frame others’ perceptions of your condition, so it’s important to use the right language to talk about your illness. Explain the facts, use accurate terminology, and be prepared for questions—you may even want to consider planning your answers ahead of time. When your loved ones have the most accurate information about what you’re facing, they’ll be able to support you better. Consider reviewing our HealthiNation videos to get an overview of different conditions.

Still nervous? One helpful trick is to practice talking about your condition with your doctor. By discussing your illness with a professional, you will get used to hearing yourself speak about this topic and using the appropriate vocabulary.

Similarly, you could speak to a therapist or participants of a group therapy who have a similar illness. You can also journal about your illness beforehand; this is another strategy to help you emotionally accept and reflect on your condition so that you can more comfortably discuss it with another person.