Why is depression so prevalent in medical school?

June 19, 2018

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.


If you’re a medical student and you feel depressed, you are definitely not alone. As many as one-third of medical students have some form of depression. Being a medical student and eventually working in the medical industry is rewarding, but the journey there can be a depressing one, and here are a few reasons why.

It’s Competitive

Many industries have an intense amount of competition, but medical school is especially competitive. Everyone is trying hard to achieve the highest grades possible in order to eventually get to the best career possible, and it can be overwhelming. This fierce competition can lead to you feeling down about yourself and feeling like you’ll never ace that test, match where you’d like, or perhaps that the specialty you’ve chosen isn’t the right one after all. Just remember that you will accomplish your goals and your confidence and abilities have gotten you this far, and it will feel sweet when your goals come to fruition.

There’s a Lot of Work

Any school is going to have its load of work, but medical school requires extra-long hours of studying and work. This not only can make you feel stressed, but you may also not have enough time to unwind, which causes your emotions to be pent up and for you to feel overwhelmed constantly.

Not Enough Time to Seek Treatment

Because all your time is devoted to school, you may not have enough time to treat your depression, much less get to a diagnosis. This can create a vicious cycle, where your performance lessens because you don’t have enough time to improve your mental well-being, and your lessened performance makes you more depressed in turn.

There is a Stigma Against Treating Depression

Because of the competitiveness of medical school, you may believe that if you have depression or are feeling depressed that you’re weak and not worthy of medical school. This is not the case. Doctors need help too, and just because you hit a bump in the road in school, it doesn’t mean that you should quit. The best thing for people to do is to try to treat their problems, instead of bottling them all up, or allowing them to prevent them from reaching their goals.

What You Can Do to Fix This

If you are struggling with depression, here are a few solutions you can take in order to start addressing it:

Get Your Work Done Early and Take Some Time for Yourself

This is easier said than done, but it can be hard to improve unless you can unwind, and making the time for that is important. Make a schedule to work and study, and set some “me- time.” Indulge in a television show, exercise a little, make sure to eat healthily, and do things that make you feel good.  Do what you love, and you’ll be surprised at how much your mood improves.

Seek Online Therapy

One of the best ways to treat depression is through therapy. You can learn different coping techniques and identify ways to think about things differently. However, medical school makes it a bit more difficult to receive regular treatment for your problems. Your schedules are all over the place, and considering that consistency is the key to achieving a successful therapy session, what can you do? One solution to that dilemma is to try online counseling. You can talk to an online therapist or psychologist who can help diagnose and treat your depression.

With online therapy, you can talk to your therapist after class, have a video chat before bed, or just talk to them when you’re feeling stressed out. There are so many options when it comes to how you can communicate to your therapist, making it perfect for the busy med student.

You don’t have to be a part of the statistic. If you’re a med student suffering from depression, there is no shame in talking to someone and treating yourself. It’s amazing that you want to help others, but sometimes you must help yourself first.


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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.