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    ADHD & the Army
    philofthefuture posted:
    I was wondering if anyone could help me with some advice on this. I haven't been diagnosed with ADHD until recently when I joined the Army. Everything has been a struggle here from basic training to AIT (which is electronics school for me) to post training and getting ready to be deployed to Iraq. The Army is not just a job. It's a very strict lifestyle. My superiors are not giving me a discharge as an option, and I'm feeling very depressed lately due to not being able to adjust to military standards and the lifestyle I'm forced to adapt to. It seems to me that the military and ADHD are like mixing oil and water. Any advice on how to cope with this for the next three years?
    Byroney_WebMD_Staff responded:
    Dear philofthefuture,

    First of all, I wanted to thank you for enlisting in one of the services and being willing to help keep our country safe. It is unfortunate that your diagnosis came after your joining the army. I found an article at the Attention Deficit Disorder Association about The Armed Forces and AD/HD that may offer you some answers (this is not a WebMD site, and we cannot guarantee content). It says in part, "Current use of medication to improve or maintain academic skills (e.g., methlyphenidate hydrochloride) is disqualifying. Therefore, many applicants with ADD are effectively barred from military service."

    Perhaps speaking with the doctor you are assigned to may help? Or perhaps he or she may have some strategies such as cognative therapy to help you succeed. If you look at our "What Helps" poll thread at the top of the page. There, you'll see many people with AD/HD are succeeding at very demanding jobs.

    Best wishes,

    ChristophorM responded:
    I have ADHD. I was in the Army. My time in the service was NOT pleasant. Think about the peer pressure they use to get soldiers to conform. They constantly said I was unmotivated. Despite my having completed Basic, AIT, Jump School and PLDC in my first 6 months in the National Guard. (Look up REP 63 program for info on how I got all those schools.) When I was a hold-under at FT. Bragg waiting for my SFAS class to come up, I just couldn't stand to wait. We were painting buildings and picking up pine cones. So I un-volunteered from the SF program and went home. Then I joined the regular Army as a Communications Technician (31U). When I had trouble with my feet and couldn't run, they turned on me like rabid pit-bulls. Then I just let my ADHD run free. I answered all their stupid questions and did all their stupid push-ups. But after having been through all that REALLY hard training, some over zealous AIT drills have nothing on the black hats at Ft. Benning or the Green Beret's at Ft. Bragg. I DID do push-ups until THEY got tired. There was just no pleasing them and if you make even the slightest mistake once you're on the radar, they start accusing you of 'malingering' and all kinds of bad things just because you have a hard time appearing to them to be motivated and not a slacker. I knew the answers to all their questions and my uniforms always looked nice, but that wasn't enough. One Drill Sergent even said he'd shoot me if he had the chance. I eventually got out due to PT failure.I had an injury to my heels. I refused to take their PT Run Waiver and be assigned to a leg unit. I tried to pass the PT test on my own to stay Airborne. We didn't have a war at that time, but I could see NO point in being in the service if the job wasn't interesting. So after I missed the run by 8 seconds, I let them discharge me and I've never looked back. Now all these years later, its clear to me what went wrong. Untreated ADHD was the root of all my problems.

    Maybe you can get a subscription from a civilian doctor and you'll do fine. When I visited the psychiatrist they didn't ask me where I work. The only thing is you will have problems if the Army catches you with an undisclosed prescription. Even if its no big deal, someone might get a case of the ### and start hassling you like they did me. Adderall is a controlled substance. They might accuse you of drug abuse for example. Once they get it in for you, you're pretty much screwed. Somehow you have to let the Army know in such a way that you won't get into trouble or find a way to get out.

    Not a day goes by that I don't feel guilt for wasting the government's money and screwing someone else out of that really good slot I had. I hope you have better luck than I did.

    Good luck and thank you for your service.
    stuff4donna responded:
    Hi, Christophor...

    I'm an Army mom, just bewildered by my son's issues that seemed to begin as soon as he left home for college. He did not go to class, partied & played video games instead and flunked out after one year, saddling himself with a large student loan debt, and no job. Enlisted in the Army to take care of the debt and hopefully get on his feet. He scored so high on the ASVAB he could've had any job in the Army, but due to shennanigans in college, he couldn't get security clearance for what he wanted and ended up with a rather low job. Once out of BCT & AIT, the places where folks are down you throat non-stop and making sure you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, he fell apart just like college. Not showing up for work, not showing up for PT, is on the brink of financial ruin from debt & failing to pay the bills, drinks too much...on and on it goes. It's like left to his own, he can't function properly. I've been doing a bit of research and I swear if he doesn't fit the mold for adult ADD...his 'success' in high school masked many of the symptoms, but I can just about see where it all started and as he has become a young adult, has really reared it's ugly head. He just doesn't think right...I've been saying over and over that there is a missing link, something isn't 'firing' between his knowing what he is supposed to do and actually doing it. He is so incredibly bright and talented (no, that's not just the mama talking ) and it's killing me to see him wasting himself. Watching this young man develop, I understand his father much better, who seems to have the same issues...he never paid bills ontime, was evicted repeatedly (now living in his mom's basement at 47 yrs old!), cannot hold a job due to insubordination...guess the 'missing link' is passable to children! I SO do not want my son's life story to be as sad and dismal as his father' would absolutely break my heart!

    He really needs to remain in the Army so they will take care of this student loan debt, plus I really believe there is much opportunity there for him (especially in this crummy economy), but how can he get the help he needs and stay in? Any advice for my son? thank you,
    ChristophorM responded:
    You're pretty much describing my Army life. I didn't make it very far after training. ADHD is genetic. My father also has issues. He's getting treatment now though. All of my siblings have it too.

    Plenty of ADHD people do well in a structured environment where they tell you where, when and what to do. When he was at home, he had you to watch out for him. When he was faced with making his own structure the symptoms become apparent. Unless he gets treatment. He's pretty much screwed.

    In the civilian world, you can go to the appointment with him and fill out the questioneers with him. You have a different perspective than he does. The doctors know the right questions to ask and may make connections you wouldn't.

    When I was his age, I did NOT believe I had a problem. I truly believed that I could have done better if I tried harder. I had lots of reasons for why I was NOT trying harder most of them were just excuses I'd use to make up for the fact that I had no idea why I was doing stupid things even though I knew it was stupid. Eventually, it starts to sink in that something isn't right.

    I got a little older. I noticed that my peers seemed to be drifting away from me. I wasn't really fitting in with people my own age. I felt like I was falling behind somehow. I'd long ago resolved myself to the fact that I was unique, but it never really bothered me until then. When my daughter was born, it all snapped into focus and I knew there was something wrong that I'd need to fix. My sister told me I should get tested for ADHD and it turned out to be the problem.

    Until your son is willing to admit that he needs some help, he won't do it.The Army is really good at making you see things like that as weaknesses. That's BAD in the Army. It may be different now, but when I was in, they weren't very tolerant of weakness. They won't treat him well if they find out he's taking medicine for ADHD. That's another reason for him to be in denial. Admitting to a mental condition can be VERY bad for your career and maybe your physical safety. If he can get treatment without getting into trouble, he'd probably do very well. He might want to start with the chaplain. The chaplain will keep everything confidential and they are used to dealing with soldiers problems. They may know a way to get help confidentially or they may have advice on how to adapt without treatment. I really liked talking to the chaplain when I had a problem.

    I'm not sure how to say this but getting booted from the Army isn't the end of the world. It happened to me and I think it was probably the best thing for me and the Army. There are plenty of opportunities for an ADHD person to succeed if they find the right combination of family support and a job that fits their characteristics. Lots of ADHD people make good sales reps. There's also landscaping and construction or Artistic pursuits like painting murals. I did roofing for a while. It was kind of fun. I'm a computer guy now. I've done this job for over 12 years. I actually learned the job in the Army. I love it. I get to solve problems and my company doesn't watch me too closely, so as long as I keep my results up to par, they overlook my eccentricities. I could go to work for myself as a laptop repairman or consultant if I could hire a good admin assistant to take care of the details for me. So, that might be an option. I used to enjoy working for temp agencies because the job was always different and I had people to tell me where to go and what to do and If I didn't like an assignment, I could ask to be sent somewhere else. That's how I found my last 3 jobs. I worked at a bank for almost 10 years because I'd been sent there as a temp and hired on.

    Things will work out. Eventually he'll see that life can be better. I wish you and your family well.

    Good luck.
    ChristophorM responded:
    I forgot to mention my wife.

    My first marriage ended very quickly because I didn't think I had a problem. My ex would try to tell me there was something wrong. I just thought she was being bossy. We got along fine until I got out of the Army and we were spending more time together. That's when the trouble started. Eventually, she had enough and left me. I told myself she was wrong about me and tried to pick myself up. I got my own place and started out fine, then I got into a situation at work where I had to quit.

    It was rough for awhile, but I managed to get on my feet about a year later. Still, my rent and bills were always late. I was going out drinking and wasting money at strip bars with my friends every night. I'd barely make it to work on time sometimes with a hang-over and nearly always with out enough sleep. I was on a path to nowhere.

    Then I met my wife. I knew I would have to do better if I wanted to stay with her. We've been together for over 10 years. It's not easy. We both have strong and opposite personalities. But I know that without her, I'd be screwed. I like to think I bring something to the table but I know it doesn't really compare with what I get from it.

    My contribution didn't kick in until we had our daughter. It turns out I'm a great dad. I have a lot of patience with kids. I had it kind of rough growing up with constant criticism. Nobody knew I had ADHD so there was no slack. It wasn't easy for me. i can relate to being a kid. We probably think on the same level. Kids like me. My wife looked at me the first day our daughter was born and said, "Wow! You're really good at this." That's how I try to pay it forward.

    Dont' be to hard or to easy on your son. He needs to get help not excuses. Tough love is probably best. He CAN find his place. He's just going to need help admitting he needs treatment. Maybe someday he'll find a good woman who can put up with his crap and keep him in line like me.

    Don't give up on him.

    Good luck.
    raetsch1 responded:
    Get through BT and AIT. I had hell doing that, but once I got to my unit, I felt pretty good about it. Spent 4 at Bragg where it seemed like the job was made for ADHD folks by ADHD folks. I spent 10 years in the Army and enjoyed parts of it enough to stay. I was not a good soldier, but I was a soldier and happy to have done it. Oddly enough, when I was being discharged medically for injuries, they gave me the Gulf War Sydndrome exam where they discovered ADHD or suggested that ADHD was my real problem and not service in the Persian Gulf War. I didn't think much of it until later when in college, I kept failing math and needed to get diagnosed with a learning disability to swap that requirement for a hard science. The Educational Psychologist gave me a battery of tests and diagnosed both ADHD and a learning disability aside from ADHD.

    It's been about four years and I've done nothing about it. I was looking at WebMD so I could maybe do something about it now since my life is still so crazy at 39. My advice is to finish your time in the Army. Do whatever it takes and then get out and pursue a degree or trade. Your time in the military will help you in so many ways in real life that it would be impossible for me to relay it to you here. Especially if you get really injured and can get a Chapt. 31 scholarship and free medical for life! Home loans and other perks aren't bad either. It also helps land decent jobs while you work out problems with alcohol, drugs and other good stuff you'll likely pick up if you haven't already.

    BTW, I wonder if they test for Ritalin when they do the urinalysis tests or do they still do those periodically?
    Thompsonj81 responded:
    Phil, I have been in the army for 8 years. I was diagnosed with ADHD 4 years ago during my first deployment. I have been a SPC for 6 years now. As you can see. ADHD and the army arent working out for me. I have always had problems with peers as well as the CoC. I have been on and off Adderal for the past 4. While I'm on it I dont notice any significant change, but others around me do. It might help you out to stick to Rx meds. Since I cant seem to complete any task, this has been difficult for me. It might help to find a mentor you trust, just to help keep you on track. Make sure that guy understands your conditions. Right now, thats whats working for me. I have a mentor and I am taking my meds. Its a really terrible way to live.. but you have to do what you have to do. I still get really angry when some some private just passed me up for a promotion.. and now outranks me. Its very frustrating. You have to realize its not only the army that you will have problems with. Its every single job you will ever have in your lifetime. I think the army is the best way to get the help you need. Think about it.. all that therapy and those medications you are taking are free right now. Take advantage of it. I am doing what I always do. Learning the hard way. Its taken me this long to figure out I needed help.. so hopefully this post, which probably doesnt make much sense, helps you get the help you need.
    shotgundan responded:
    when I started reading this forum I could have sworn all the posts were written about me. I have a similar set of situations. In the army, In the infantry, 25 years old, have been in the army for about 3 years now. I have been struggling with ADD my whole life, though I wasn't diagnosed until 5 months ago but I have suspected I have it for the past 4 years. I did good in high school, but I had a really hard time in college and lost my motivation and focused more on the social and party aspects of college more than academics. On the ASVAB I scored a 90 and have a 128 GT I could have done any job in the army, however my integrity got the best of me at MEPS and I admitted to marijuana use and having had childhood athsma which inhibited the RIP contract I so desperately wanted. Basic was a real kick in the stones for me, when I got to my unit it was even more of a kick in the stones. Things that got me in trouble were things like losing keys losing ID cards not being perfectly in uniform, losing J-arms, showing up on time, keepin the barracks room neat. Things that get most new joes just moreso than anyone else. However their deficiencies seemed to be a result of they didnt care and mine was just hard for me, I used to kill myself trying to do "the right thing" and it just never worked out. After about 9 months of hell we deployed for 15 months that was easier it sucked because we were over there and all that that entails but it was also easier because everyone was always too tired, too stressed out, too busy to get on your case. When we got back having only 11 months left in the army I was thinking about the future again about going back to college and doing it right this time. That's when I got diagnosed, he offered me adderall but I declined as at the time I thought it was not allowed in the military so I told him I could suck it up until I ETSed. After we got back it was the same old thing all over again, and in all honesty these past 5 months have been the toughest of my life. tougher than the last few months of iraq. Since I've been back I've developed a drinking problem, I have anger issues, I have depression issues, and of course ADD. I was at PDHRA (post deployment health risk assessment) the other day when I went to see behavioral health station and told them the things that had been bothering me they looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I thought I wasn't allowed to take ADD meds in the army. They told me I could and I have an appointment this week to see someone. I'm also seeking a "early separation to further education" (AR 635-200 5-16) which may be something you will want to look at. I'm not gonna lie to you and tell you that theres an easy solution there ain't. It's tough for everyone else and its gonna be tougher for you. If you have ADD I'd reccomend trying to get medication for it if you can. Some things that have helped me over the past three years is one your gonna need someone you trust to vent to someone you can count on for me it was my old man whose been very supportive. Don't be afraid to get help if you feel you need it. It doesn't neccesarily have to be someone the army gives you. Think about your future, I'm guessing the army is probably not the best career choice for you, but for the next 3 years your stuck, what might you do after the army think about it come up with a plan, get pumped about it, and devote a lot of your free time to perfecting your plan. Get home as often as you can, for as long as you can. Routines are gonna be very important for you, you gotta get in routines that prevent you from getting castrated by your chain of command. For instance I keep my kit and everything I need in my car which I park at work so I can get at it quickly, I clean my room every night before I go to bed, lay out your uniforms everyday that sort of thing keep yourself organized as hell over do it. Any further help I can be don't hesitate.
    ADDSoldier responded:
    How severe your ADHD is really going to be the deciding factor if you stay in the Army or not, that and if you want to stay. Your unit can also be a big factor. I am disappointed to say this but different units are not all equal. Some units will be supportive and others will be down right demeaning an or try to force you out. I was diagnosed about 3 months ago. After reading some of the other post I think my ADD might not be as severe as others here. I have not had a rough time in the Arm and have enjoyed most of my time ( 6 yrs Active). I made E-5 just over a year ago. I noticed my increasing inability to remember things and focus on my job. I am currently deployed to Iraq. I checked into ADD and was diagnosed through phone consults with a civilian doctor. I approached my chain of command about my situation only because the medications prescribed will make you pop hot for meth on urine tests for drugs. I really didn't want anyone to know I had ADD and I didn't want it to affect my career or ability to progress through the ranks. My unit told me to see an Army doctor to be cleared to take Vyvanse. They cleared me but I had to take Concerta because the Army didn't cover Vyvanse because it is so new. I have to say that Concerta has helped me tremendously and my unit is very supportive. In fact I don't even notice a difference in how they treat me or view me as an NCO. Your unit aside, if you want to stay in, make the most of the time you remain in or to make a career of the Army you owe it to yourself to get diagnosed and treated. If you have any questions feel free to ask.
    JustSomeSoldier responded:
    I am a soldier currently deployed to Iraq and when I was a child I was diagnosed with ADHD. I feel for you Phil and recommend that you take the same path as myself and get all the help that you can. In my personal experience the army can be an incredible challenge when you have ADHD on some levels if you fight it. On the other hand the structure and constant supervision that it provides can sometimes be a safe-haven from the debilitating effects of adult ADHD, its all a matter of how you look at it.

    I have read all of the posts here and find it comforting to know that I am not the only person that struggles with these problems. I would like to be diagnosed as an adult and overcome my difficulties and have even attempted to do so, unfortanetly this did not go well as I ran into some of the discrimination that Christopherm spoke of. From the clincal staff at the CSC I went to for a diagnosis no less! I am now wondering about the right way to go about this and thought that perhapes someone here might have a bit of advice for me. I am especialy interested in what addsoldier has to say as it would seem that you were diagnosed in country as I am attempting to do.

    At any rate good luck to all of you I hope you find something that works for you.

    Oh I was wondering, does anyone know what the likelyhood of getting booted from or being bard from re-enlistment in the army is just for having Adult ADHD?
    ADDSoldier responded:

    I was diagnosed in country but not by military doctors. My wife and her sister-in-law just so happened to be working for a specialist who treats both adults and children with ADD/ADHD. I was telling my wife about all the problems I was experiencing and she thought I might have adult ADD. So she talked with her boss and he agreed to do an over the phone consultaion. After agreeing that he thought I had ADD he sent via e-mail a questionaire for a more comprhensive dx. Without telling me, he also had my wife fill one out about things she witnessed in me and both of our results were extremely similar. He suggested Vyvanse first. Because I didn't want to get into trouble with the Army I choose to tell my chain of command about the issue. I went to the TMC on the FOB only to make sure that I was permitted to see a civillian doctor for treatment and to ask if I was allowed to take meications he prescribed. The only reason the Major I saw knew what I was talking about was because her specialty was pediatrics and she was slightly familiar with adolecent ADHD, otherwise she told me none of the other docotors would've been able to help me and probably would've sent me to mental health instead. She affirmed that I was allowed to see the civillian doctor and take medications he felt were neccessary for treatment. As long as I had a legal prescription in my possession I could not be negatively affected by a positive UA test. Again every unit is different, but I think that by coming forward voluntarily and recognizing my own problems my unit did not react negatively to my issues. Who knows my next unit might not be so sympathetic but I will have to deal with that when it happens. As for a suggestion, try to find a civillian specialist in the states and see if they might be willing to help you over the phone or through e-mail. The hard part in getting help this way is that most Dr are wary of doing what mine did because a lot of people try to get diagnosed to get the meds so they can sell them ilegally. ADD/ADHD meds are a form of speed and fetch a nice price from what I've learned through research. I would never suggest selling them to anyone, these meds can be very dangerous to someone who doesn't need them or might be allergic to them, not to mention what would happen if you got caught selling them. As for your last question, what promted me to ask my wife about this is that I saw something on AFN where this medical officer was talking about how ADD/ADHD can keep you from entering the military but if you are already in and then get dx you can stay in as long as your condition does not pose a problem to you, anyone else or the acomplishment of the mission. Hope this helps. If you have any other questions ask away.
    downlowfiero85 responded:
    Your stuck in a rock and a hard place. Your not supposed to be aloud in the military with ADD or ADHD. I tried when I was 18 and they denied me mainly because you cant have the meds you need in the field. They don't want soldiers in active combat needing to take meds. If something were to happen out in the field where you can't get your meds they don't want people relying on meds to fight. They said to me I'd be a risk to the soldiers around me. Like if I was on watch an I didn't have my Adderal I wouldnt be paying attention and my mind would be wondering someone could get killed because of my actions. I was really pissed when they told me this but I knew if I lied an I got in it would be hell for me to go through basic training an AIT without my meds. Plus if they looked up my medical history an found out that I was diagnosed with ADD they could give me a dishonorable dischage. If I was you I'd get out ASAP they can't deny you medical discharge for this reason don't let them lie to you. Its the same grounds as if you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder they wouldn't let you go. Look into this and don't take the chance of a dishonorable discharge by not taking your meds and doing something wrong.
    loveskids55 replied to downlowfiero85's response:
    All of the reasons that the army gave you such as 'miind wandering, someone else could get killed by your actions, etc' are exactly the reasons i did not feel my son should join. he went to bct today and said he never told them about his adhd, oppositional defiant disorder, sensory integration dysfunction, osgood-schlatter disease...because he said 'they didn't want to know.' So here i am worried to death after reading all these posts from soldiers who barely made it, or didn't. I only want my son to be happy, but today he couldn't even follow orders to put a card in his wallet and then dropped his money on the floor, so sgt made him drop and do push-ups. But he really thinks he can do this and my heart bleeds for him. Maybe just mom anxiety, but i think not, since he was dxed at 9yrs old and has been taking meds. Everyone says he'll be fine, but they don't see what i see. Of course he's not taking meds now because he won't pass the urine tests. I've been so tempted to just call the recruiter and tell him everything about his many diagnoses, but too late now. MOS is 91B, so hopefully that's safe enough so he won't endanger himself or anyone else. Any words of wisdom would help right now.
    luvmykids4ever replied to loveskids55's response:
    You should be proud of him. Being in the army he is not only defending out country, but his family as well. My brother is and has been in the military since right out of high school (18). Growing up my brother was held back in elementary school. Back then we did not have the diagnosis for ADD and ADHD. They were just labled "Hyperactive". He could not sit still, could not focus, could not stay on task, you name it. He finally did settle down. It took some time though. I owe most of that to being in the military. Of course, he wanted to be in the Marines. I guess he had not choice. You have to pay attention. He has grown up and is in the Army now. He is in Iraq. I am so proud to have him there. I tell you this story because I have a son (11) who is almost a carbon copy of my brother. Only my son is also dyslexic. So that just makes everything twice as hard. He is also on medication, which I have my reservations about. But without it he bounces off the walls...literally. He too wants to join the Army when he is old enough. The mom in me does not want him to, but the teacher in me know that it would be good for him. He loves playing army with his dad in the woods. They go hunting and pretend. I know the military has little tolerance for many things. I myself was in the military before my kids were born.
    There are many people who have adult ADHD/ADD. They learn to focus. Just keep praying. It will be OK.

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