Anxious About Med School? Addressing the Anxiety of Med Students

December 12, 2017

This post was created in partnership with BetterHelp. As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.


Let’s face it, college students have a lot to worry about but medical students have it even worse. Not only do you have to worry about getting good grades in class, the pressures of residency, and getting enough sleep, but you also have to worry about being accepted to a good medical program. In fact, according to a study reported by Anxiety.org, after only the first two months of medical school, 26% of the students admitted to suffering from anxiety disorders. Another 15% reported that they had depression and close to 10% were suffering from stress related disorders.

In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that one out of every 10 medical students have reported that they have had suicidal thoughts. Approximately 30% of those in medical school have symptoms of depression. Many say it is about the lack of sleep or getting good grades but others claim it is more about being away from home, too much competition, or a heavy workload. Others say that they are having trouble with other college related issues such as tuition expenses, not fitting in with peers, or how to keep up with the rest of the class.

So, how do you know if you have an anxiety disorder? There are signs to watch for but they are different for everyone. No two people will have the same symptoms. However, here are some of the most commonly reported symptoms of anxiety disorder:

  • Feeling nervous or tense
  • Memory loss
  • Excessive fatigue or feeling sleepy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Fast heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual but still feeling tired
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps or generalized body pain
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Feeling lost or confused
  • Avoiding others
  • Fear or sudden feeling of doom
  • Panic attacks (rapid breathing and heartbeat, sweating, feeling like you are going to die)

Take It Easy

You may not be able to cut your work load or sleep more but there are ways to get rid of some of that anxiety. One of the most often reported anxiety found in medical school students is generalized anxiety disorder. This is a serious mental health condition that can affect your physical health as well. In fact, this disorder has been linked to heart attacks in women. Females are twice as likely as males to have generalized anxiety disorder. Some of the recommended ways to prevent anxiety in medical school includes:

  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay social as much as possible
  • Know what your limits are and stick to them
  • Volunteer to help others
  • Join a study group
  • Find a mentor
  • Try meditation or yoga
  • Listen to music
  • Enjoy a day off (make time for yourself)
  • Talk to people about your feelings
  • Set goals
  • Develop a support system for yourself (peers, family, friends)
  • Seek help when you need it

Get Help When You Need It

The most important part of staying sane in medical school is knowing when you need help and then making sure you get it. Of course, you are busy and do not have time to make an appointment with a therapist and then actually go to that appointment. Luckily, there are online therapists who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week so you can message them whenever you have time.

Some people assume that this type of online psychology is not very useful but there are an increasing number of companies connecting people with 1,000s of licensed professionals that specialize in many different topics. All you have to do is answer a few questions and they will set you up with a therapist within minutes.


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As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.