How do I get my new college roommate in the loop about my anxiety and depression?

By on May 20th

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Juliana S. asks:

I'm a 19-year-old about to start my second semester of college in the fall. I'm going to be assigned a roommate and we'll share a 12×15 room. I'm totally fine with all the normal roommate issues, but I withdrew from school partway through my first semester due to an enormous and unexpected episode of major depression and anxiety. I'm dealing with it a lot right now, so hopefully it will be under control by then, but I am going to need to warn my roommate anyway. What is the best way to do this, and what should I ask of her — at both an absolute minimum and a normal friendly-roommate level?

I'll start! I've dealt with anxiety, and my best advice for cohabitating is to be open (but not too open). Most people with overactive anxiety put off a vibe when they're feeling upset — some are snappish, some are withdrawn, some drink a lot. There are a ton of responses. No matter your flavor, anxiety often affects those closest — physically and emotionally — to the sufferer. So it'll help you both if you are up front, but if you just blurt out, "I HAVE ANXIETY AND I AM ON XANAX," things could get awkward, especially with someone you just met.

The most important thing your new roomie needs to know is that this isn't about her. You can keep it non-specific and say something like, "I've had a hard time adjusting. I've learned a lot and I'm working to take care of myself, but I want you to know that if I [resort to my coping mechanism], it's not about you." And then, keep her updated without oversharing. On days I'm feeling high-strung, I've learned to give my husband a heads-up: "I'm sorry that I snapped at you/don't want to hang out/need to be alone. I'm feeling anxious today because of blah blah blah…" I'm a very insular person, so I don't even like to go into detail, but just that simple bit of info helps a LOT — he no longer feels like he has to walk on eggshells when I'm acting weird.

What do you think, guys? What's the necessary amount of information one needs to share with a new roommate about problems like this?

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About Cat Rocketship

I was the Managing Editor of Offbeat Home for a year and a half. I have a rich Internet life and also a pretty good real life. Hobbies include D&D, Twitter, and working on making our household more self-reliant. I also draw things.