Over the past five years, several sites -- such as Prescription4love.com, Nolongerlonely.com, and -- have launched to serve the needs of people with conditions ranging from bipolar disorder to Crohn's disease.Together these sites now boast tens of thousands of members.For that fee, members get a more personalized experience, as Date Able is more akin to an old-school matchmaking service.
All of these can make dating -- often an ego-shattering minefield for those in perfect health -- even trickier.
"On bigger dating sites the competition is tremendous," says Jim Houran, Ph D, a clinical psychologist and columnist for Online Dating Magazine.
As one of its first members, he should know: He met his wife, Lynn, at a Date Able Valentine's Day party in 1988.
"I didn't want to try it," says Watson, who has moderate cerebral palsy and was working as a national project director for the United Cerebral Palsy Association at the time.
In addition to providing their users with a more hospitable environment, these websites defuse the tension over how and when to disclose an illness, which is often an issue for people with diseases and disabilities who venture onto mainstream dating sites.
When health problems equal heartache After some "horrible" results on other dating websites, Lana joined Prescription 4 Love and the STD-specific site
"But I probably knew everybody in my community and nobody I knew wanted to date me or vice versa.
Lynn lived 60 miles away, but we made it work." By pushing a "friends first" concept, which has been emulated in the communal blog and forum features of Prescription 4 Love, No Longer Lonely, and other illness-specific sites, Date Able members can get up to speed on the dating world in a familiar environment without the prying eyes of the Web.
People with mental health problems, from chronic depression to schizophrenia, have also benefited from specialized sites.
Jim Leftwich, 39, a college librarian from White Plains, New York, has lived with schizoaffective disorder, a condition that combines features of schizophrenia and mood disorders (such as depression), since 1992.
Even in our post-Americans With Disabilities Act society, notes Watson, failing to mention that you're confined to a wheelchair or dealing with another type of handicap might bring a first date to an abrupt end after a courtesy "I'm sorry" drink.