What mental disorders disqualify you from the military? (Which ones?)

In this guide, we will discuss “What mental disorders disqualify you from the military”. We will mention the mental disorders that will prevent you from being eligible for military service and also, we will mention some of the medical conditions that may disqualify you.

What mental disorders disqualify you from the military?

If you are wondering ‘What mental disorders disqualify you from the military?’ If you would like to pursue a military career then, let us answer your question by saying that mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis and other unspecified depressive issues may disqualify you from the military. Moreover, if you have a history of mood disorders that have required medication treatment and/or outpatient care for more than 6 months will also disqualify you.

Other mental conditions can be disqualifiers such as Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, dyslexia, schizophrenia, behavioural disorders (i.e. sleepwalking, enuresis or encopresis after the age of 13, bulimia, anorexia), speech affected disorders and another history of medical disorders. 

However, consider how this may vary from one country to the other and many people around the world often ask themselves if they can serve in the military if they have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Let’s start by talking about the specific case of the U.S. military and the types of conditions they consider are disqualifying.

You may wonder why this happens, well, the answer seems fairly simple. Serving in the military implicates carrying weapons and this could expose people to being harmed. However, the Armed Forces are said to have changed or adapted their previous guidelines in regards to the mental health disqualifications for military service.

Mental health 

In some countries, mental health is considered a sensitive and serious topic not only to determine whether an individual could be accepted or disqualified but also when having to stay in the services as well. Even though there are many mental health disorders, there are also many disqualifying medical conditions. 

Most of the disqualifying conditions are:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is disqualifying unless the individual can demonstrate a passing academic performance and no use of medication in the previous 12 months. Also, if you have been misdiagnosed and medicated as a child or young adult, some leniency has been applied to the recruitment process.
  • Mood disorders (i.e depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis)

Anxiety disorders  

As you may know, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health disorder not only in the U.S but also in the world. Depending on the type of anxiety, you may struggle a lot being around other people or getting on with your life and daily activities. In extreme cases, it will prevent you from doing things, being around people and putting a strain in your relationships. But if anxiety becomes too overwhelming, it is recommended to visit a mental health professional.

As indicated on operationmilitarykids.org, “the general rule is that you cannot enter the Armed Forces if you require inpatient or outpatient care related to an anxiety disorder in the last 12 months. Additionally, the Department of Defense examines if any treatment has been prescribed for the disorder in the last 36 months.”

Autism Spectrum

The opinion about whether autism is a disorder that disqualifies you from the military is divided. For instance, according to the website operationmilitarykids.org, “In the past, having autism was an automatic disqualifier for military service. However, like many forms of mental illness, the Department of Defense is starting to change its perspective on the matter.” 

They indicate that there is not a clear or specific answer on whether it is an automatic disqualification and it will depend on the type of job you are seeking to join and the symptoms you normally deal with. In contrast, others have indicated that it is a reason to be automatically disqualified.

Speech Affected Disorders

Having a speech impediment, stammering, stuttering or any other receptive or expressive language disorder that could potentially interfere with your ability to repeat commands is considered a disqualifying condition. However, ask the competent authorities about the

Self-harm

If you have a history of suicide attempts or suicidal behaviour, you will be disqualified for military service. Besides, having a history of self-mutilation or self-harm will also be considered as disqualifying. Having this type of behaviour in the past poses a risk in the future, especially in military service.

What mental disorders disqualify you from the military? (Which ones?)

Bipolar disorder

This is considered a very serious mental illness since it causes unusual shifts in your mood, concentration, energy levels and ability to focus in your daily activities. This is why it is an automatic mental health disqualifier in the military. 

Other disqualifying disorders

  • Other disqualifying disorders include having a history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • Having a history (or current) dissociative, conversion, or factitious disorder, depersonalization, hypochondriasis, somatoform disorders, or pain disorder related to psychological factors or a somatoform disorder (i.e. hypochondriasis or chronic pain disorder).
  • History of having an adjustment disorder within the last 6 months, or recurrent episodes.
  • Having a history of paraphilias (i.e. voyeurism, exhibitionism).
  • Having a history (or current) substance abuse or dependence.

As indicated by Marcia Purse from verywell.com, “Disturbances of conduct, impulse control disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or other personality or behaviour disorders characterized by frequent encounters with law enforcement agencies, and antisocial attitudes or behaviour also warrant disqualification from service.”

Medical conditions that may disqualify you from the military

Just as there are mental health conditions that will disqualify you for joining the military forces, there are also medical conditions that we feel we should include. 

Abdominal organ conditions and Gastrointestinal System conditions

If you have any of the following, you may get disqualified from the military:

  • Oesophagus. Ulceration, fistula, achalasia, or other dysmotility disorders; chronic or recurrent esophagitis if confirmed by appropriate x-ray or endoscopic examination.
  • Stomach and duodenum. Gastritis (chronic hypertrophic or severe), active ulcer of the stomach or duodenum confirmed by x-ray of endoscopy, congenital abnormalities of the stomach or duodenum causing symptoms or requiring surgical treatment.
  • Small and large intestine. Inflammatory bowel disease such as regional enteritis, ulcerative colitis or ulcerative proctitis.
What mental disorders disqualify you from the military? (Which ones?)
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding. History of, unless the cause has been corrected, and is not otherwise disqualifying.
  • Hepato-pancreatic-biliary tract. Viral hepatitis, or unspecified hepatitis, within the preceding 6 months or persistence of symptoms after 6 months, or objective evidence of impaired liver function, chronic hepatitis, and hepatitis B carriers.

Blood and blood-forming tissue diseases

The following conditions may be considered as disqualifiers for military service:

  • Anaemia.
  • Hemorrhagic disorders.
  • Leukopenia.
  • Immunodeficiency.

What if I have dental treatment?

Who would have thought that there were dental conditions that may potentially disqualify you for military service? Yes, it is a possibility so here are some of the ones to consider:

  • Diseases of the jaw or associated tissues which are not easily remediable and may require treatment or incapacitating.
  • Severe malocclusion that interferes with your normal mastication or requires early and protracted treatment.
  • Orthodontic appliances for continued treatment. However, retainer appliances are permissible, provided you have completed all active orthodontic treatment.

What if I have an ear condition?

The following ear-related conditions may disqualify you for military service:

  • External ear conditions such as atresia or severe microtia, acquired stenosis, severe chronic or acute otitis externa, or severe traumatic deformity. 
  • Mastoiditis, residual mastoid operation with fistula, or marked external deformity that could potentially interfere with wearing your protective mask or helmet.

Why is this blog about What mental disorders disqualify you from the military important?

If you want to pursue a career in the military but you have a mental disorder, it is completely normal to want to find out if the condition you have is among the ones listed as disqualifiers. However, every country has its own rules and the processes will vary as well as the mental disorders listed as disqualifying conditions but some of the most common could be mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis and other unspecified depressive issues. 

Also, having a history of ADHD, speech disorders, if you have suicidal attempts, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. In contrast, there are several other physical and medical conditions that could prevent you from joining the army so make sure to check if you have any of those disqualifying conditions. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about What mental disorders disqualify you from the military

Does mental illness disqualify you from the military?

If you suffer from a mental illness you will be disqualified from the military, if you are serving in the U.S. military. This will be the case if you have a current diagnosis or a history of most mental disorders. For instance, having any disorder with psychotic features such as schizophrenia or a delusional disorder will not allow you to serve. 

What medical conditions disqualify you from the military?

Medical conditions that may disqualify you from the military in the U.S. are:

  • Abdominal Organs and Gastrointestinal System.
  • Blood and blood forming Tissue Diseases.
  • Body Build Deficiency.
  • Advanced Dental Diseases.
  • Ears and Hearing Loss.
  • Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders.
  • Loss of Function in Upper Extremities.
  • Loss of Function in Lower Extremities.

Do antidepressants disqualify you from the military?

Antidepressants are disqualifying for 1 year after you have stopped taking them but don’t stop suddenly without your doctor’s supervision and advice. The medication should be reduced slowly to lower the risk of having side effects and to avoid having a relapse.

What mental illnesses do soldiers get?

The most common mental illnesses soldiers get are posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD, depression and Traumatic Brain Injury. These three are considered as the primary mental health concerns among people who have served in the military. 

Does the military check your mental health records?

Most countries do check your mental health records to consider if you qualify for military service. There are certain security and safety positions like law enforcement and military agencies that require people to pass a mental health check. Moreover, this often carries an in-depth investigation of any previous records of mental health issues you may have been treated for.

References 

Powers, R. (2019, Oct.) Military Medical Standards For Enlistment And Commission. Retrieved from thebalancecareers.com.

Purse, M. (2020, Mar.) Can You Serve in the U.S. Military With Mental Illness? Retrieved from verywellmind.com.

Military.com: “Medical Conditions That Can Keep You From Joining the Military”

Rob, V. (2020, Aug.) Military Disqualifications For Mental Health. Retrieved from operationmilitarykids.org.

What mental disorders disqualify you from the military? (Which ones?)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.