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Old 03-02-2010, 04:46 PM   #1
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Yixian HB User
TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

I've never been much of a hypochondriac, worried about things now and again like everyone else, but nothing major.

I am a second year medical student and about a week ago I was suddenly struck by the most miserable, unbearable case of medical student's syndrome.

Medical student's syndrome is basically hypochondria in medical students as they read about new diseases, and is apparently quite common.

The problem is I have historically had a problem with anxiety and this is rapidly getting out of control for me..

First I was convinced I had a brain tumour. I get chronic tension headaches and had a period of having them worse than normal. The headaches are much better now and this is less of a concern.

Instead, I am now interpreting every little twitch, tingle and pain as ALS..

For example, I was feeling fine about an hour ago, then suddenly noticed I had a small area of raw, sensitive skin on my left hand. I started poking and prodding it and eventually the whole bloody hand hurt.
It still feels sensitive and I don't know why, but basically I quickly went from calm to almost having a panic attack.


It is making me really miserable now, I am starting to have feelings like "with all the things you can get in the world, what's the point?" and I just want to stop worrying.

It's specific diseases too - neurological, incurable, without known causes. Brain tumours, MS, ALS etc.

Now every twitch of my body sends my into a panic.. I can't bare it.


Really need some guidance here

EDIT:

To be specific, there is a patch of hypersensitive skin on my thenar, and my entire left arm feels kind of.. like an extreeeeemly low level pins and needles. Incredibly slight, but there. Been there for about an hour.

Last edited by Yixian; 03-02-2010 at 05:30 PM.

 
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:52 PM   #2
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Lindaru HB User
Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Hi, Yixian . . . I sincerely sympathize with what you are going through. I was never a medical student but I have worked as a receptionist, transcriptionist and medical billing person in a doctor office and for an insurance company.

I also have anxiety (diagnosed when I was 16), and I have to say, it is very easy to take the simple stuff we get every day and link it up to something catastrophic that we think we might have.

The only way we can deal with it is to distance ourselves from the material we are reading that induces anxiety about our own symptoms.

We have to ask ourselves, "What is the chance that I would have this? What type of environment do I live in that would bring this on (environmental things like mesothelioma, for example) or what genetics do I have that predispose me to this?"

You will find that when you reason it all out, your chances of having what you are reading about are almost nil.

I am also presuming that you are getting annual physicals. I would go more on what you learn there. If you are getting clean bills of health or if you have minor things that you are being treated for, chances of something new and dreadful coming up for you is highly unlikely.

At the end of your day, at the end of your studies, watch something comical on television. Drink some relaxing tea. Get some good sleep. When the sun comes up tomorrow, things should look better.

Lindaru

 
Old 03-03-2010, 01:03 AM   #3
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Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Thanks Lindaru, I hope you're doing ok at the moment! Hypochondria is such an awful feeling.

You're right about the "chilling out at the end of the day thing", there's a classic mindset medical students can get into where we just eat, sleep, live and think about medicine 24/7. That's what I've been like lately.

Sadly it's hard to avoid reading about some of these things as I have to know them, but I can still pass my exams without covering eg. ALS, I think I'll sacrifice the potential mark or two!

Definitely not going into neurology either!!

The good thing about hypochondria is that it does help to know that other people experience the same thing, because it makes it easier to rationalise your thoughts then.

 
Old 03-03-2010, 10:15 AM   #4
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Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Hi, Yixian . . . it also does not hurt to talk to fellow medical students and see that maybe some of them are going through the same things as you. I think there are more people that do associate through health anxiety than do not.

I am long since retired from that field and no longer have to deal with it on a day to day basis but what I am finding now personally is the number of advertisements on television for prescriptions with all of their associated side effects and some with law suits against them for diseases.

I consider myself very lucky to not be on any of those but every now and then I will wonder if that day of feeling blah, or not feeling strong, or loss of appetite as I go through a stressful event could be something more serious?

You will likely have to continue to chill and rationalize your whole life, but it is okay. It makes you more mindful in many ways and will help you to be alert as you get older to not only your own physiology but the physiology of those you care for.

Lindaru

 
Old 03-03-2010, 04:27 PM   #5
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Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lindaru View Post
Hi, Yixian . . . it also does not hurt to talk to fellow medical students and see that maybe some of them are going through the same things as you. I think there are more people that do associate through health anxiety than do not.

I am long since retired from that field and no longer have to deal with it on a day to day basis but what I am finding now personally is the number of advertisements on television for prescriptions with all of their associated side effects and some with law suits against them for diseases.

I consider myself very lucky to not be on any of those but every now and then I will wonder if that day of feeling blah, or not feeling strong, or loss of appetite as I go through a stressful event could be something more serious?

You will likely have to continue to chill and rationalize your whole life, but it is okay. It makes you more mindful in many ways and will help you to be alert as you get older to not only your own physiology but the physiology of those you care for.

Lindaru
Yeah, I'm sure many other medstudents suffer this, apparently it is very common.

I'm still having an issue with this though, I keep thinking it's getting better then a twitch or a tingle or a pain in a limb and the thoughts creep back in, "ALS? MS?!" etc.

Definitely my proneness to anxiety is contributing to making this more of an issue than it should be. I feel like subconsciously I am almost assuming I am terminal.

 
Old 03-03-2010, 06:09 PM   #6
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Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Hi, Yixian . . . we sometimes have to accept that it is just part of the human condition to have tingles, twitches and what not.

I have discovered as I age (I am 53 now), I am experiencing or at least noticing things happening to me that I never noticed before (cannot get up really fast, sometimes if my hands get cold they get numb, tingles, twitches, muscle weakness, the "dropsies" where you seem to not be able to hold onto things).

Sometimes our bodies just "glitch". Anxiety is the situation where you just notice it more.

I would invite you to check into the "Anxiety" thread here at the Health Boards. One piece of advice I have given in the past to people which seems to work well for many is, "Right here, right now, I am okay."

When you feel that odd tingle, twitch or whatever, try moving or massaging the affected place. I am often seen rubbing my wrists or arms after getting a lightning bolt shooting pain after house work in them.

Let me know how this works for you!

Lindaru

 
Old 03-04-2010, 06:49 AM   #7
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smurfy33 HB User
Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

I can sympathize with you! I've always been a worrier but nothing so severe that it really affected my life. I'm a medical transcriptionist and I do hospital transcription, so I'm always typing about people coming in with chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke symptoms, etc. About a year after I started doing transcription, my anxiety about my health started.

My doctor does not understand me. She brushes everything off to anxiety (whether it is or not, I don't know). I saw her in September and told her about this muscle weakness and fatigue I've been experiencing and she actually shrugged her shoulders at me, as if to say "I don't know what that could be and I really don't care."

So, I think your problems with "medical student syndrome" will make you a better doctor, more in tune to your patients and more understanding about what they are going through. Best of luck to you!

 
Old 03-04-2010, 10:12 AM   #8
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Lindaru HB User
Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Smurfy . . . I sympathize with what you go through with your doctor. They just tell me I am no Spring chicken any more.

Thank you for your supportive and kind words to Yixian.

Yixian . . . one more thing I forgot to mention was closing your eyes and taking a few slow deep breaths when the anxiety hits. That helps me sometimes, too.

Lindaru

 
Old 03-06-2010, 08:17 AM   #9
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Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Thanks for the advice guys, really good tips!

I'm still finding this to be a bit of a problem, it moves from one "symptom" to another - now it's shaking in my left hand! Argh..

 
Old 03-06-2010, 10:32 AM   #10
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Lindaru HB User
Re: TERRIBLE Medical Student's Syndrome

Hi, Yixian . . . well one thing I can tell you for sure.

Knowing that your symptoms are anxiety is half the battle of being able to cope with it.

Also, sometimes if you sleep with your face on your hand (I do this a lot), your hand and arm on that side can feel weak and even be shaky the next morning.

Try holding your arm out parallel to the floor and with your palm flat, rotate your arm by turning your palm up and down. Do shoulder circles by rotating your shoulders. Flex your fingers or even shake your hands. All of these things should take impingement off of your muscles and nerves as well as wake up the circulation.

Hang in there, Yixian!

Lindaru

 
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