5 Issues Asthmatics Have With Dating

What's The Issue With Asthma And Dating

Asthma and Dating
Asthma and Dating. Getty Images- Image Source

Young or old, dating and asthma can be scary.

A patient recently shared a story with me about her asthma and dating. She was in college and began dating a young man she met in one of her classes. Her asthma was very well controlled, but she was embarrassed about her chronic illness.  She did not discuss her asthma with her new boyfriend, but always had her rescue inhaler with her. If needed she would have used her inhaler, but she was somewhat embarrassed to proactively discuss her asthma with potential suitors.

In the past her asthma had not always been well controlled. Poor asthma control limited her activity and also impacted her self esteem. She did not feel good about herself at times and tended to isolate herself from all but her closest friends. By the time she entered college her asthma was well controlled with close monitoring of her asthma action plan, few people even realized she had asthma. Whether or not to tell new friends and people she dated was something she thought about a lot and she usually waited until knowing someone for a while.

So it was not unusual that after only a few dates she had not discussed her asthma. What was different was that for the first time in a couple of years she noticed her peak flows worsening and she was developing some symptoms of cough and shortness of breath following a cold. She was eventually diagnosed with flu after she made a a visit to her local physician who admitted her to the hospital.

Her hospital course was complicated by eventually being placed on a ventilator and pneumonia. About 2 weeks passed between when she last spoke to her new romantic interest and when she got out of the hospital. When she called he thought he had been dumped and had moved on with his life. While he was understanding and the two went out again, it was not meant to be.

This story highlights a number of issues that asthmatics have with dating:

  1. Self doubt. Many patients with chronic illness have self doubt about dating. They ask themselves questions like “Will I find someone?” or “What if she (or he) won’t accept me the way I am?” or “What if my asthma is too much?” Asthmatics may also tell themselves things like “I am not good enough for her (or him).” When you let thoughts like this creep into your mind you are really saying that the relationship is not going to work and that you need to find someone else, even if you think that the relationship is good initially. I find that self doubt often masks this realization. I usually tell patients that you should trust your instincts. If you are having these sort of doubts than someone else is probably a better fit for you. While it can be scary to talk about asthma or any other chronic illness initially, if you cannot get past it there may be deeper reasons.

  2. Disclosure. This can be very tricky and also related to #1. Share too soon and you may scare someone off. If you wait like my patient did, you run the risk of the appearing that there is a lack of trust. I have seen some patients be very upfront from the beginning and others wait until the relationship matures and enters exclusive dating to have a serious discussion about their chronic illness. The key is to develop a plan.
    Think about what you want to say and consider even practicing in from of a mirror. Most times I find patients telling me the whole angst over deciding what and when to have this discussion is much worse than the actual discussion itself.

  1. Expense. Asthma can be an expensive disease with patients having to purchase both controller and rescue inhalers. These expenses can add up and mean that you have less money to do other things.

  2. Misunderstanding. Many people, especially true the younger you are, with asthma feel stigmatized. While my goal for asthma patients is to live as normal a life as possible, this is not always possible. There may be activities you will have to miss or things you cannot take part in. Patients with chronic illness sometimes describe this as “life interrupted.” If you have ever been “the kid who was always sick” or the “kid with the inhaler” then you know what it feels like to be stigmatized.

  1. Worry. If you have a chronic illness like asthma that is not well controlled or is unpredictable, it is not surprising that you may worry that romance will be more difficult. Chronic illness can limit activities and then activities may need to be changed last minute due to your asthma.

Do not get caught off guard and develop a plan for how you will address asthma when dating.

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