Anxiety in Medical School
by Tiffany Cerda.
Anxiety can be a normal part of life, but as a podiatric medical student, some of us would say we feel an uneasy amount of anxiety regularly. We want to be successful, but with the high volume load, sometimes the creeping anxiety comes and there is no way to stop it. Anxiety can come in many different forms, such as feeling nervous, being fearful, gastrointestinal problems and having trouble sleeping.
According to the Student Doctor Network, upwards of 1 in 4 medical students meet the criteria for depression (Smith, 2016). The uneasy feeling of not doing well in medical school could lead to students having anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations at times. Stress is unavoidable throughout life, but especially in medical school. Students should be advised on coping methods and have a support system in place. Scholar Journal of Applied Medical Sciences published an exploratory study that followed 73 students in the first year of medical school. They found that after just two months of medical school, 26% of students admitted to suffering from an anxiety disorder (Anxiety.org, 2016).
I interviewed a podiatric medical student for this review, who wished to stay anonymous. This interview gives a first-hand look into some of the anxiety issues a typical student will face at some point in their journey through medical school.
Q1: Prior to starting medical school had you dealt with anxiety?
A: “Before starting podiatry school I was a very relaxed person who made time to do the things I liked. I would have seldom nerves to finish things. But now I feel anxious and jitter almost all the time”.
Q2: How does this affect your school work and social life?
A: “My grades are good because I give myself so much stress over such small things. I get sick often before exams and I do not make enough time for the things I once enjoyed because I feel like I always have something that I can be doing for school.”
Q3: How many hours a week do you spend studying? And how many hours a week do you spend doing something you enjoy?
A: “ I usually spend a minimum of 11-15 hours studying outside of class. I am in class all day during the week but I try and spend a few hours doing something fun on Sunday.”
Q4: Do you feel that studying is the only way to do well in school?
A: “I feel like I need to study at all times to keep up with my goals and the other students in my program.”
Q5: Why do you have anxiety now and not in your prior education?
A: “ I think it’s because I feel like am finally learning for the rest of my life. I will be the first doctor in my family, I feel like I have to be successful for them more than myself. They have sacrificed so much for me to continue my dreams and I have no other way to show my gratitude then by me doing well.”
This student allowed me to ask invasive questions but overall it seems like their stress is stemming from the pressure to do well. Doctors go to school to learn and become knowledgeable, but most are forgetting they are humans who need time for themselves as well.
…every student is different; there is no one formula that will work for every student to eliminate stress, anxiety, or depression.
The undoubtable consensus from speaking to students and reading different articles was that students are feeling stressed in medical school. Medical students need to seek ways to prevent or manage daily stresses. Every student is different; there is no one formula that will work for every student to eliminate stress, anxiety, or depression. However, there is research about how stress can lead to “burnout”. Burnout according to the Mayo Clinic is work-related stress – with physical or emotional exhaustion and involves a sense of decreased accomplishment (Know the signs of job burnout, 2018). The healthcare system should continue to advocate and help students in coping with these issues to further prevent physician burnout.
by Tiffany Cerda
- Anxiety.org. (2016, August 26). Medical School Causes Overwhelming Stress In Med Students. Retrieved from https://www.anxiety.org/whats-ailing-first-year-med-students.
- Know the signs of job burnout. (2018, November 21). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642.
- 1 in 4 med students around the world shows depression signs. (2016, December 6). Retrieved from https://www.ama-assn.org/residents-students/resident-student-health/1-4-med-students-around-world-shows-depression-signs.
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