Mental health is so important in the fire service. Can you be a firefighter with anxiety or ADHD is a questions I’ve heard several times.
Many of us will experience anxiety at some point when faced with stressful situations. However, for many, it is a constant struggle that requires medical support.
It is possible to get anxiety disorders under control with the right treatment, which means that there are plenty of employment opportunities available to patients.
So, can you be a firefighter with Anxiety or ADHD?
Yes, you can become a firefighter with both anxiety and ADHD. Some candidates with mild symptoms that are under control will be successful firefighters. Make sure that you can deal with the roles you will take on without exposure to any triggers. Or, if you know that some triggers will be present, work on reducing their impact so that you can see provide the best service possible.
In this guide, I want to look at both anxiety and ADHD, as the latter is another disorder that candidates have questions about.
First, I will discuss the potential risks and disqualifying factors for those that undergo treatment for anxiety. Then I will talk about ADHD and how it could be a positive trait in some cases.
Finally, I want to talk about the hiring process and the importance of honesty and positivity – whatever your condition.
Your ability to work as a firefighter with anxiety depends on the intensity and the triggers.
Is your anxiety acute or mild? What triggers feelings of anxiety and how do they manifest themselves? These questions are all important in determining your suitability for the fire department.
Mild anxiety in a small number of situations might not be a problem if you can control the symptoms. Acute anxiety in a range of situations with the risk of panic attacks is too extreme if you can’t bring the situation under control.
You can’t risk becoming a liability in the middle of a stressful situation if it may mean lives are in danger. However, I do want to note that firefighting is actually classed as a good role for those with social anxiety by some mental health experts.
It is important to really think about everything that a firefighter has to do in their job. This doesn’t just mean fighting fires.
It also means dealing with life or death medical emergency, major accidents, community outreach programs, strict training courses, continual studying and much more. If any of that induces any feeling of anxiety, you have to question if this is the career for you.
What medications do you take?
Another factor to consider is the medication that you take to reduce the symptoms of the disorder. Some drugs aren’t permitted by fire departments, so your prescription could be a problem.
Xanax could be a concern; this pharmaceutical drug can have negative side effects that would inhibit your ability to function in an emergency.
The same is true for other benzodiazepines such as Valium and Klonopin. These drugs can also be addictive, which would then raise concerns regarding substance abuse policies.
To avoid these pharmaceutical drugs, some anxiety patients will use medicinal marijuana where permitted. However, this would also disqualify you from being a firefighter.
Most departments have strict rules about being completely clean from any substances, including tobacco. This is even the case in states with legalized recreational marijuana.
Can you be a firefighter with ADHD?
Another condition that firefighter applicants often talk about in ADHD. Can you join the fire service if you have any kind of attention or hyperactivity disorder?
Some people that don’t know anything about the condition may assume that you can’t. How can someone with attention issue or hyperactivity handle a stressful job such as firefighting or EMT work?
The truth is that you can actually handle the job pretty well with this condition.
In fact, there are those that state that ADHD is actually more of a gift and that firefighting suits those that have it. Therefore, perhaps we should actually be encouraging departments to hire more people with the condition.
ADHD advocates talk about the superpower that you get when you have the condition.
According to these advocates, people living with ADHD tend to be better in a crisis. Their brains become calmer and they can switch off the feeling of panic.
This is great for firefighters that need to handle a developing situation or life-threatening risk. They are often happy to jump into a situation and do what comes intuitively rather than mull things over. Again, this can be perfect for the fire service where you need split-second decisions and reactions.
What candidates with ADHD might struggle with is the down-time when they get bored. This is when some can get a bit fidgety and difficult to deal with. However, those that focus on other tasks and studies shouldn’t have a problem.
Whatever your condition, be positive during your firefighter interview and the rest of the hiring process.
Because there are no clear disqualifying factors for anxiety or ADHD in the medical, the decision of the department will come down to the psychological evaluation and the interview. The interview process is essential here as it means that you can talk about your condition on a personal level.
Explain what it means for your capabilities to work, your skill-set and your mindset more generally.
Explain the medication you are on and how this keeps the worst traits of the condition under control.
Explain your strengths and the positive side to having the condition – such as how it has allowed you to adapt, build strength and use other skills in life.
All you can do is be honest and be yourself. Some departments will happily recruit you if they feel you can keep the condition manageable and prove to be an asset. Many are now more aware of anxiety in the workplace and the need to support those with mental health issues.
However, some will be less keen to work with people with mental health issues if they are under-resourced or don’t know much about your particular condition.