School in itself is a challenge for most of my classmates and myself, especially with finals study time in full swing. Apparently they want doctors to know a lot of things.
I looked at a post I wrote about this time last year and it's very similar to how I feel right now.
One of the differences this year, though, is I know my classmates a lot better, and so I'm much more aware this time around that many of us have a lot of additional stress outside of class. There are a number of students that I am genuinely worried about - I honestly don't know how they have the strength or stamina to get out of bed every morning, considering what they have going on in their lives.
This year in clinic I learned about a questionnaire called the PHQ-9, which the physicians gave to some patients as part of a comprehensive assessment for depression.
As I got to know the questions better, I began to realize that if you took a survey of my class right now - in the middle of finals season - based on this questionnaire I wouldn't be surprised if the vast majority of them would register as "severely depressed."
In fact, to prove it to you, I'll go through it right now:
Over the last 2 weeks, have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
Check. Even things I used to like doing, like learning about medicine. Too much of a good thing, you know? Like a dump truck full of ice cream.
b. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
Check. Despite the overwhelming statistical precedence that 99% of us will pass, everyone I talk to thinks they will be the one person who will fail.
c. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
Some of my classmates are so revved up that they are self-medicating just so they can sleep at night.
d. Feeling tired or having little energy
Try exhausted. And I don't think it's African Sleeping Sickness.
e. Poor appetite or overeating
One classmate told me that her theory is that "everyone in our class either gains or loses weight during finals."
f. Feeling bad about yourself, feeling that you are a failure, or feeling that you have let yourself or your family down
Wow, I swear the writers of this questionnaire talked to my classmates
g. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching television
Haven't had time to do either of those. But trouble concentrating while studying...check.
h. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed. Or being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual
Absolutely. Mini-anxiety attacks will do that to ya.
i. Thinking that you would be better off dead or that you want to hurt yourself in some way
Not me in particular, but there are some in my class who might...I've heard comments like "I want to crawl in a hole and die," "Maybe I should just drown myself in the bath," and "If only I had a gun." Which ones should I be taking seriously?
Major Depressive Syndrome is suggested if:
• Of the 9 items, 5 or more are checked as at least "More than half the days."
In fact, if I could find a checklist for "Cabin Fever," given the number of students cooped up in a study room for the last few weeks I can guarantee we'd score pretty high on that one too.
At least our faculty isn't like some other ones I know of, which, in response to student comments that the curriculum is stressful, recommend that the students a) seek counselling - kind of not an option given the limited free time during finals study time - and b) take anxiolytics, ie. medicate the stress away. Thanks for your support.
Gonna get back at it. Wish me luck.
(Again, this is not a place for you to be getting medical advice, but if any of the above apply to you - and things won't return to normal on a set date ie. you aren't in the midst of finals - please book an appointment with a professional!)