Telling people you have MS

This page deals with deciding who to tell and takes you through some of the different reactions you might get and some suggestions about how to deal with them.

Getting started

Telling people that you have MS can be a very difficult thing to do. Accepting the diagnosis yourself is hard, let alone having to break the news to others.

Being able to open up about something sensitive takes courage and practice.

If you find it hard talking about personal issues, there are techniques that can help. Try writing down what you want to get across to the person you are telling, or doing some role-playing with someone you trust beforehand.

Dealing with adversity can strengthen a relationship, as well as cause difficulties.

Many people with MS say they remember this as the time when they found out who their true friends were.

Find out more about telling parents, partners and children

Who to tell

Two male friends talking

"It is a very personal thing, your health, but I don't see why I shouldn't be upfront. I'm not embarrassed about my MS, it's a fact of life."

There is no reason why you should feel pressured to tell everyone you know that you have MS, or share that information immediately with strangers. Your health is a personal thing, and only you will know how you want to handle things.

However, if people are aware of your condition and how it affects you then they may be better placed to offer their support if and when you need it.

Many MS symptoms such as fatigue are not outwardly visible. It can be difficult and frustrating trying to explain to people how you are affected and how debilitating the symptoms can be.

You may find it helpful to direct people to the MS Society website to have a look at different symptoms and how they can affect you, this will save you having to explain everything yourself.

Dealing with different reactions

People may deal with the news in a number of ways.  For you, the way they deal with the news may be helpful or not so helpful.

Some people may panic whilst others will be surprisingly calm.

People who don't know much about MS will have lots of questions that you might not be able to answer. They might assume that you're an expert on MS when in fact you know little more about it than they do.

Other people may avoid you because they don't know what to say. They don't know how to deal with you having MS, so they choose not to. This can be very hurtful, and it's hard not to take it personally.

Some people will go out of their way to help. This may have the opposite effect, making you feel frustrated or even useless. Try to explain to the person that you will ask for their help if you need it, but that you want them to treat you the same as they did before they knew you had MS. 
Whatever a person's reaction, talking about it with them can be really helpful.

Try to look at people's questions objectively and don't take them personally. Encourage people to talk openly to you about your MS and about how it makes them feel.

Often, you can only do this once you have come to terms with the diagnosis yourself so only talk to people when you really feel ready.

Read more about telling your family and loved ones

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