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I know there are a lot of questions about whether or not to disclose mental health issues to advisors, but the difference is that I'm asking whether to disclose these conditions before they agree to supervise me. (Thus, I don't think this is a duplicate of To break mental health condition to potential new advisor because in that post, the professor had already agreed to supervise the student.) Also, unlike the other posters who are primarily concerned with diminished productivity and/or having to take time off, my condition hurt my relationship with a professor.

Here's what happened: How Would You React If a Student Complained to the Dept. Chair About You but Later Apologized and Disclosed Mental Illness?

Most of my problems stemmed not from the grievance itself but from persistently trying to have it dismissed, which I do not regret. However, since the university sent me a cease and desist letter (and all faculty know about the situation, or at the least know to forward any communication from me to the General Counsel's Office), they may mention or allude to this in a letter or recommendation. So it may be best for me to explain everything prior to applying.

Anxiety also affects me in other ways. For example, I fear flying. Since advisors often encourage their students to travel for research/conferences, she should probably know about this phobia as well. Best case scenario, she's understanding and uses this information to better communicate with me and help me avoid stressors. However, she could also decline to advise me. (If it's relevant, this is for a master's degree.)

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    I suggest editing the question to remove all the history. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 6 at 6:29
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    I think it's important to share the history since it's the main reason I asked and the main situation that's affecting me; however, I'll edit it some. – Gemini Jun 6 at 6:35
  • I do not agree. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 6 at 6:36
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I agree that the history should be removed. However, when I see this question and the sentence "persistently trying to have it dismissed, which I do not regret", then, were I a potential superviser aware of the whole story, I must say it's the latter sentence that would be me more reason of concern than the mental illness itself which OP has identified and is taking mitigating action over. It means that OP has chosen to not reflect about things that have effect on their university environment; in other words, it could happen again under similar circumstances. – Captain Emacs Jun 6 at 12:11
  • @CaptainEmacs- Making sure my professor didn't suffer in any way from the grievance is more important to me than the university environment. – Gemini Jun 6 at 23:58
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I fear flying.

Nearly all PhD students go to conferences. They usually go there by flying. There is no way to hide that you fear flying. Therefore, I suggest disclosing so that your advisor can arrange for your to participate in conferences without flying. Disclose before you enroll, and find out if your advisor can help you be successful before you enroll.

Should you disclose before you apply? It depends. If you can disclose in a way that shows you will be successful in the program (e.g. "Following treatment, my symptoms are improving so I expect my future achievements will be better than my past achievements...") that may increase your chances of admission. Show you have a plan for success. If you disclose and indicate you cannot be successful in the program, then you probably will not be admitted. But why would you apply if you cannot be successful?

Anecdote: One of my colleagues disclosed a fear of flying to me when he was a PhD student. He is now an assistant professor. He does fly from time to time.

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    Flying or not flying has nothing to do with your competence as a scholar. Nothing. FWIW, I don't fly either, but just because it has become so incredibly painful to do nowadays. – Buffy Jun 6 at 12:17
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A bit different from the other answer.

Do not disclose any mental health trouble. Disclose you fear to flight only when you are successful enough to envision your attendance to conferences and not at any earlier stage. When eventually it will happen, present your fear as very focused fear and do not mention anything else. I can't think of any real trouble as far your PhD is concerned. Do that when and if necessary in a strict way. Your supervisor or a coworker can present the work on your behalf if a particular conference is strategic for the group/supervisor. As already said by others there will surely be a conference that you could attend without flying. Consider that, yet and unfortunately, attending overseas conferences is still difficult for many people in the academy worldwide. So it won't be particularly problematic for your supervisor to only "send" you to locations reachable by train.

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  • A supervision/PhD student relation is not a regular job. Quitting it when things do not work out is painful, difficult and sometimes seriously career and confidence-damaging. It is better for OP to be upfront, because if the superviser discovers it too late, expectation may not match up and the damage can not easily be reverted. This is bad advice. You want a supervisor that OP can convince that they do good work, despite the condition because the condition is part of OP's makeup, there is no denying it; and it has real consequences as the other questions of OP has shown. – Captain Emacs Jun 6 at 12:02
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    @CaptainEmacs, actually this is good (great) advice. There is no need to reveal it. It is a personal thing. If it becomes an issue in the future then you deal with it then, either by revealing it or taking alternate action as appropriate. Don't project the anticipation of problems in such situations. Mental health issues are a matter between you and a doctor/therapist. It isn't an academic consideration. – Buffy Jun 6 at 12:07
  • @CaptainEmacs having witnessed many PhD I can't think of one failing because one doctoral student refuse to flight. That is the meaning of my answer, taking what Buffy said as as the ground. – Alchimista Jun 6 at 12:16
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    @Buffy In principle, if it has no effect on their environment or OP have enough control over it to shield their environment or to prepare them of how to deal with it, I would completely agree with you. OP, however, has - and here the history plays a role - had a chain of past incidents where it did spill over to their environment in multiple phases, creating significant distress. Unless it is clear that it will not repeat, there should be a signal of reflection by OP that they are working on keeping things under control. And I do not see it. The supervisor is in for a bad surprise. – Captain Emacs Jun 6 at 12:35
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    @Captain Emacs. Uh I see the situation. I therefore let my answer stand here for a general audience and for whom might indeed suffering a precise, punctual phobia. As far as the OP is concerned I can only suggest him/het to ask the same question to the professional(s) who follow him/her. This is already out of the Academia scope. – Alchimista Jun 6 at 13:17

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