I am applying for a few jobs in the US Defense industry as an engineer and I know that they ask about prescribed medications during the background check. Would taking anti-depressants hurt my chances of being hired?

Currently I have put off going to a doctor to get the medication for fear that is will hurt my job search.

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    Under HIPPA I am surprised they can even ask that.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 4 '18 at 18:16
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    I think when getting security clearance that requires FBI background check, things like HIPPA get overruled. The employer doesn't actually see the results but the agent in charge of the clearance search is allowed to ask such things
    – user91949
    Dec 4 '18 at 18:19
  • Where do you get your information that an agent is not bound by HIPAA.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 4 '18 at 18:28
  • I was just thinking, no real info. It makes sense as they are a government body, and you have to consent to the background check, which I would assume will have a clause about consent for the agent to see your medical records. Sorry this is just an assumption on my part, If wrong I am sorry
    – user91949
    Dec 4 '18 at 18:30
  • @throwaway Take a look at the second link on my answer. There are very specific questions they are allowed to ask, and only certain people can ask them. I do not believe they have access to medical records.
    – David K
    Dec 4 '18 at 19:23

No, this should not affect your chances.

First off, the background check for a government clearance is pretty in-depth, and would likely only be happening after you are given a job offer. All of this information would be considered private, so the company interviewing you shouldn't know about your medications at all - only the government investigator would, and only after you told them. You going to the doctor will not automatically put you on a list somewhere.

Second, having a history of depression is not something that would disqualify you from getting a clearance. From Clearance Jobs:

If you have depression and/or anxiety, you’re in good company with countless other security clearance holders. You shouldn’t feel ashamed or stigmatized because of it.

Seeking out treatment for such a condition (or any mental health condition, for that matter) is NOT itself disqualifying for obtaining a security clearance. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Failure to obtain mental health care when needed can be viewed as evidence that you are in denial and/or lacking in judgment.

So please, don't delay going to the doctor because you are worried about getting a job. Interviews can be stressful, and you'll probably be more successful if you try to address your mental health before rather than after.

To address a question in the comments, the investigator will only request access to your medical records if your doctor says that they believe you have a condition that could impair your ability to protect classified information. Again, from Clearance Jobs

If a clinician answers ‘no’ to the the question ‘Does the person under investigation have a condition that could impair his or her judgement, reliability or ability to properly safeguard classified national security information,’ does the investigator request mental health records?

. . .

When the mental health practitioner(s) answer(s) “no” to the first question, there is no further investigation of this issue, unless the investigation surfaces contradictory information from some other record or personal source. When there is a “yes” to the first question, the applicant is usually required to complete an INV Form 16A, Specific Medical Release, which is used to obtain more detailed information regarding medication, other treatment, test results, and medical opinions regarding health, recovery and/or rehabilitation.

Here's another helpful link that goes over the actual questions about mental health you would encounter on the background check form. (h/t Joe Strazzere)

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    As you correctly point out seeking mental help will not affect your security clearance. The government, in fact, encourages people to seek whatever help they need. The government spends a lot of money trying to educate their employees with security clearance, about seeking help, and learning to deal with stress in a healthy protective way (suicide prevention, etc).
    – Donald
    Dec 4 '18 at 20:49

Having gone through this process before, I can offer a little insight. In addition to things like your criminal record, they want to investigate anything that could be used against you to manipulate you into possibly doing questionable activity.

The issue about any single item of interest in the investigation is could that thing be used to manipulate you?

For example, if you have a history of theft but never get caught- could you be blackmailed into providing classified information in exchange for keeping that history of yours private from your boss? Also there are other mundane things, such as whether you are heavily in debt- people in debt tend to do illegal things for extra money that they otherwise wouldn't do- like give classified documents in exchange for cash. Or perhaps they break the law, or cheat on their spouse- and so they are blackmailed into providing classified information in exchange for keeping things quiet.

Your medical condition could be used against you if you feel it's embarrassing or something you would rather not reveal to investigators. Being up front by telling them this information in advance removes the possibility that you can be blackmailed about it or embarrassed to have the condition exposed. Your honesty and integrity is important with respect to the security clearance, and your medical condition is something you should be willing to provide if they ask questions.

Do not let them find out after the fact that you are taking medications. Also, see your doctor and get the meds. By attempting to circumvent the issue- you make it clear you are either embarassed or can be manipulated into doing things to keep the issue private from your employer.

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    With respect to your second to last paragraph, I think it's very important to segregate between the employer and the investigation process. In the case of a civilian employer that requires a government background check, the employer basically gets a "yes" or "no" and doesn't see the actual details. So, disclosing that you're on medication during the investigation does not mean by default that your employer knows that.
    – dwizum
    Dec 4 '18 at 18:32
  • Right, there may be a dual background check, fairly common with these jobs in the civilian sector. You go through the investigation process, and you'll go through a drug/background check with your employer. The employer background check is typical as any other employer background: check criminal, financials, and things like that but not your medical history. You even have to sign a consent form with the investigation with your security officer so the investigator will have consent to talk to your doctor.
    – Dan
    Dec 4 '18 at 18:38
  • @dwizum Point taken, and I understand- I wasn't trying to imply that one way or the other, so edited the answer. Part of the goal of these investigations is to expose what could make someone do something drastic to keep something private. Medical history is probably a non-issue in all honesty, the question is what other lengths is OP willing to go through to hide the information. I hope that makes sense.
    – Zorkolot
    Dec 4 '18 at 19:07
  • Understood and I agree in general with your answer - Just wanted to clarify, since there seems to be a lot of "if I reveal all these things about my past, everyone I work with will know them" kind of attitude about background checks, and in the majority of cases, that's just not true.
    – dwizum
    Dec 4 '18 at 20:44

would it not be MORE of a risk to not take the anti-depressants?

I don't know how it will affect your chances. I would like to think that it would not because that would be discrimination. Either way, I would think not taking them would hurt you more.

You really need to think about yourself here. Even if it does hurt you and you don't get the job, your mental health is more important. If it lowers your chances, that should be a good indication to look for a different job anyway.

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    You make a good point, about not seeking help, the government spends a ton of money trying to educate it's workforce on the proper way to deal with stress. Seeking mental health help, is a healthy way, to deal with depression. Keeping your depression to yourself, and not getting the help you need, results in workplace violence and suicides which is something the government wants to avoid.
    – Donald
    Dec 4 '18 at 20:55

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