Can you be a cop with bipolar disorder?

In this blog, we will answer the question, “Can you be a cop with bipolar disorder”, and also cover topics like what is bipolar disorder, symptoms of bipolar disorder, psychological screening, and also answer frequently asked questions. 

Can you be a cop with bipolar disorder? 

Often in our lifetime, we encounter illnesses or disorders which do not let us pursue our dreams, be it joining army forces or politics. Mental illnesses especially make it difficult to join such careers. And the attitude of people in that particular field can also be a hindrance to your will to join that particular career. For example in mist police forces, mental health can be seen as a weakness or as a defect in the composition of a perfect human being.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder earlier known as manic depression is a mental health condition in which a person experiences intense and extreme mood swings like emotional spikes (mania or hypomania) and emotional lows (depression).

So when you are in the depressive phase you will feel very sad and lose any interest whatsoever you had in the activities you liked to pursue. While in the manic state you will feel euphoric and brimming with energy and quite unstable or irritable too. 

The mood swings of such intensity can take a toll on your ability to judge, observe and listen clearly. Such episodes can occur frequently – multiple times in a year or rarely. Also, the emotional episodes can be experienced by some people while others may never have them all.

Medications can help you in managing the disorder but a better option would be to also include psychotherapy along with your usual medication.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Types and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

There are several bipolar disorders and related ones. We will explore them and their symptoms here:

●       Bipolar I Disorder

If you have had at least one major full-blown manic episode and a major depressive episode then you might have Bipolar Disorder I.  

Symptoms of ManicHypomanic episode:

  • Feelings of bursting with energy
  • Trouble with focus and concentration
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Euphoria 
  • Indulgence in risky and impulsive behaviours
  • Trouble falling asleep or other sleep-related issues

The symptoms associated with a manic episode are really clear to others and affects one’s life in a manner that it is too obvious. The symptoms should not be caused by the influence of alcoho, drugs, or any other health issue. 

Symptoms of a major depressive episode:

  • Feelings of exhaustion
  • Irritable mood
  • Anger outbursts
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Concentration related problems
  • Change in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of sadness, despair, etc.

●       Bipolar II Disorder

If you have had one major depressive episode for at least a duration of 2 weeks followed by one hypomanic episode but never a full-blown manic episode, then you may have Bipolar II Disorder.

The symptoms of a hypomanic episode are less intense as compared to a full manic episode but they still cause difficulties in the person’s life.

Bipolar II often gets misdiagnosed as major depressive disorder and you should talk to your therapist/psychiatrist about your concerns in detail, and you can plan interventions accordingly. 

●       Cyclothymic Disorder

One year of multiple periods of hypomania in children or teenagers and two or more than two years of hypomania in adults and consecutively, phases of depressive symptoms (less severe than major depression) can mean that you have Cyclothymic Disorder. 

Can a police officer work with bipolar disorder?

With all the awareness about mental health conditions across the world, it sometimes can be tricky. A lot of departments in any country would not want to gain a risk by hiring somebody with bipolar disorder. And as sad or unfair it might sound, they are going to count a person with bipolar disorder as a liability.

Stress is a regular component of working in law enforcement field, and stress can aggravate more intense and maximal sides of your disorder, namely mania. This job throws a lot of stress as well as hate too on you, daily. Law enforcement can crush people physically and emotionally. 

Stress and aggravation also depend on your personality. A lot of sub-departments of law enforcement do not bother you with that much stress, given you leave your work related stress at work and do not carry it home.

The law enforcement people show some of the highest suicide rates too. Cops start quite healthy and then later one they get piled on so much with no help or support that suicide becomes the only option to choose, this is not to scare you, just to beware you of the reality of working in law enforcement.

Can anyone prohibit you from becoming a police officer if you have bipolar disorder?

The laws vary in different states and countries. While in most cases there is no such prohibition on the person, you do have to pass psychological screening, if you can clear that, well and good for you.

Some academies allow people with mental health issues to be admitted to the police forces, given that the disorder has been in remission for at least two years.

For example, New Zealand has a policy that people who have been prescribed antidepressants were to wait at least two years off the medication before they could be admitted in the forces but now this policy has been revoked.

Assessments require a counsellor, a psychologist or psychiatrist to note your medical history. But if you are not diagnosed with a disorder but display a series of symptoms or do not pass the psychology exam then you would be barred from most programs to join the force.

Another necessary factor would be your ability to deal with stressors in your job and overcome them. The training program is itself quite testing with a high-stress environment. It puts candidates to test in pulling out those who can not acquire the mental or physical abilities for the job.

A person with a history of mental illness is quite susceptible to high-stress surroundings and it can cause a relapse or recurrence of a disorder.

Therefore even if you possess the ability to pass the initial testing, the training program can be a real challenge to get through, therefore a lot of people even without a diagnosed mental disorder may not be cut.

What is a psychological screening and what is its purpose?

Screening is done to test the personality traits and psychological readiness of the candidate. It is not a medical assessment and can not deem you mad or crazy. Over 90%  of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. employ psychological screening. 

Its purpose is to check the general intelligence and judgment skills of a person, as well as to note if there has been prior drug use by the candidate. The psychological screening is the last step of hiring and can make or break your chances of bagging entry into the police department.

The screening is to assess a candid,ate’s ability to be suitable for the job, as the job can be taxing, in terms of emotional, mental and physical well being. It takes all kinds of personalities to deal with such a job. Certain personality traits are presumed to be undesirable for law enforcement officers. So a psychological screening tended to highlight those undesirable traits.

Cops and their mental health  

Police officers are exposed to traumatic calls for service on a regular basis, like child abuse, violence at home, homicides, brutal murders, etc. Prolonged and repeated exposure to such stressors can make them more susceptible to mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and burnout.

According to survey data on 434 police officers, it was found that 12% of them showed a lifetime mental health diagnosis; while 26% had a positive screening for ongoing mental illness symptoms and 17% of them had reached out for mental healthcare services in the past 12 months.

More police officers die because of suicide than getting killed in the line of duty in 2018. Barriers regarding how we perceive mental illness as well as the stigma attached to it can be one of the reasons for such a high number of suicides.

The notion is that officers who take help for treating their mental illness are weak or unfit for duty. Perhaps there is a strong and timely need for broader screening policies even for existing police officers which would be of aid in employing strategies tailored according to the need of the officer. 

Education regarding mental health and consecutive treatment for police officers is the need of the hour. policing is an essential occupation to the rule of law and hence those who serve to deserve regular protection from the mental strain, not just physical but it is a matter of psychological survival.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder has no perfect and permanent treatment but it is a controllable disorder. 

Medications are quite helpful to help you manage your symptoms associated with Bipolar disorder.

Psychotherapy is also a line of treatment that is quite effective as it helps a person to deal with their concerns in a better manner.

Usually a combination of medications and psychotherapy can be the best way to go forward to deal with bipolar disorder. 


In this blog, we covered what is bipolar disorders, different typesof bipolar disorders, can a person be a cop with bipolar disorder, cops & their mental health, and all about psychological screening. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Can you be a cop with bipolar disorder? 

Does being bipolar disqualify you from the job?

No one can discriminate against you if you are surviving with bipolar disorder in the workplace. It is illegal.

Can you be bipolar in the military?

No, service in the military requires the person to be physically and mentally fit due to the severe nature of stress, anxiety, etc that is associated with the job and anyone in the military diagnosed with bipolar disorder is generally considered not fir for the service and retired from the military.

Can you join the police if you are on antidepressants?

It depends on what kind of antidepressant you are taking and its strength and also the duration of the treatment also affects your chances of getting in. generally, if you are on antidepressants, you would be asked to quit unless you appear again after a period of remission.

Can you be bipolar and be a firefighter?

Different states and countries have different training curriculums but most of them allow a person with bipolar disorder to work as a firefighter as far as the person can meet all the requirements and criteria, is able to perform all the responsibilities associated with the job, and they don’t take any of the prohibited medications. 

Is bipolar considered a permanent disability?

If you are going through bipolar mood disorder, you can opt for the long-term disability, if eligible. You will be provided with monthly income payments during long absences from work to ease the financial pressure putting you down.

Is Bipolar 1 or 2 worse?

Bipolar 1 is worse as the manic episodes associated with Bipolar 1 are more intense and life-threatening than Bipolar 2 which has hypomanic episodes, that are less intense and include more depression related symptoms. 


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!