Is mental illness a hardship or a hindrance?

Hi everyone,

I just have a quick questions regarding mental illness and medical school admissions.

I have been diagnosed with OCD, schizoaffeective disorder, and an anxiety disorder. These conditions have made my social and academic life very difficult and have suffered in the process. It’s not that I’m looking for an excuse per se, it’s just that I feel these conditions have jeopardized my previous performance prior to medication.

Do any of you think that overcoming and coping with mental conditions can be seen as a hardship that has been overcome or more of a hindrance that might raise red flags?

Just to note, being medicated, the conditions would not affect me in my medical duties.

Thank you!

Hey, Steve. I saw this before and have been thinking about how to answer. (Anonymously, that’s how.)

So I’ve got some obvious physical problems and also a reasonably exciting psych history. (As anyone with mental health struggles would know, the mental part is a much bigger obstacle than almost any physical problem.) What have I discussed openly, in essays or interviews? Only the stuff that was grossly apparent.

For example. Let’s say I’m in a wheelchair (I’m not). Now, I am (see site title) from the older generation. The younger, post-ADA set might even have advised me not to “disclose” my wheelchair in my AMCAS and secondaries. To an old soldier like myself, this is lunacy. What, am I going to show up to a MED SCHOOL INTERVIEW and just happen to be in a wheelchair? Not even.

Now. On the psych side. Most people with beyond-normal mental problems have various other friends with varying levels of mental disability. I have an old and dear friend whose recalcitrant OCD has really eviscerated his adult life. (To give you an extracurricular idea, he has reached a certain age without, shall we say, having experienced intimate companionship.) He has various physical tics. He doesn’t look like a “total freak” in the bad movie and negative stereotype sense, but it would be really hard for him to get through a whole DAY of interviews while presenting as 100% normal. Beyond that, he has to have SOME explanation for what has happened to his work and education (over what are now not the years but the decades, I’m sorry to say, having known him since college). In daily life he’s not a mess. He functions actually quite well. But his application sure would look strange. He would pretty much have to say something to get a fair reading.

Me? Psychiatrically I am not so far “ahead” of him. But, I hate to put it crudely, I can pass for normal. So no way did I mention my psych struggles (far worse than any physical “challenge”–how I hate that phrase) in my applications or interviews. Now, certain of my research interests speak to a psych history. But far from directly. I found other explanations (relationship troubles, excessive outside work) for holes in my application. Other explanations that were TRUE, by the way…but the psych explanation was true as well.

Just my two cents. Good luck!

Thank you for responding and what you’ve said is very helpful and insightful.

My concern is that I truly, in my heart, feel that my illness has undermined by abilities and and my past educational and employment record are a testament to that. I don’t want it to seem that I’m looking for an excuse and a “get out of jail free card” because of something beyond my control. I just hope that, with a documentable illness, they (the admissions) committee may be able to look at my application with a different frame of reference.