Have you been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS)? There is no single right answer or approach for everyone when deciding whether to disclose a diagnosis of MS to a partner, children, family or employer.

How comfortable you feel sharing with others is a personal decision, so allow your own priorities and needs to guide you about what you say and with whom who you discuss your illness.

When it comes to telling your children, however, MS experts advocate talking honestly to them about your health, as it helps to reduce anxiety and fear. Children are perceptive, no matter their age; they know when something is different and may even misread silence as meaning the situation is so dire it cannot be discussed. Consider your child’s age and maturity level when responding to any concerns or questions to avoid giving too many details or information they cannot understand.

One MS counsellor suggests asking your child about the best way to learn more about the illness –this could mean watching an educational DVD, visiting an online resource or just sitting quietly and chatting to you. If you are unsure about how to deal with disclosing your status, contact a support group, MS counsellor or association for guidance.

It is one thing telling your friends, children and family about your illness, but totally another to disclose it at work. You’ll need to make important career-related decisions, such as when and whether to tell your employer, if you’ll be able to continue working and how MS will affect your productivity.

Steve Nissen, Employment Programme Director at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) in the US suggests carefully considering the situation before disclosing your illness to your employer. This may include asking yourself whether you are experiencing new or different symptoms that are making things difficult at work, struggling to meet deadlines or taking time off work.

Consider the advice of experts at MS Australia: people “may wish to consider delaying disclosure in the workplace if they have no visible MS symptoms and are not experiencing any work-related difficulties”.

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