Mood disorders are stigmatised a lot in modern society, and bipolar disorder is no exception. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you want to join the military, be prepared for an uphill battle. The first thing you need to do is talk to a recruiter. A good recruiter can tell you about joining the military and what having bipolar disorder could mean for you.
- Skill level:
Begin the enlistment process. You need to select a job, meet height and weight standards, prepare to pass an Army physical training test, and study for your Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). You will not sign an enlistment contract until you have met every condition required for enlistment, which your recruiter will discuss with you.
Listen to your recruiter. Bipolar disorder is an automatic disqualification for enlistment, but your recruiter may be able to coach you on how to limit the disorder's impact on your medical record.
Talk to your doctor or the person who diagnosed your bipolar disorder. See if you can get the diagnosis reversed or downgraded to a milder diagnosis. Bipolar disorder is not necessarily a permanent condition, so your doctor may be able to declare you cured.
Submit a waiver. Anyone turned down because he does not qualify for enlistment can file an appeal. This will be reviewed at a higher level by military officials who can overturn a disqualification.
Realise that all of the Armed Forces have the same basic enlistment criteria. Although ASVAB score requirements and other small details may vary slightly, all services require that you be of acceptable medical standing when you enlist. Therefore, being turned down for bipolar disorder in one service does not mean you have a chance if you try to enlist in another service.
Tips and warnings
- Remember that an existing bipolar diagnosis will make adjustment to military life exceptionally hard. It is a trying process even under ordinary circumstances, and "failure to adapt" is the number one reason recruits don't make it through basic training.
- Lying on any enlistment paperwork is grounds for separation in the future, so be careful what you say.
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