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Severe anxiety/depression and grad school

CyberShotCyberShot Posts: 175Registered User Junior Member
edited February 2011 in Graduate School
So, I'm currently a third year undergrad physics major. I've always had health anxiety issues, since I was a child. However, very recently they've begun to worsen, and I've been going through a lot of depression/paranoia states. I've seen a psychologist and therapist. My therapist said I had OCD, but more geared towards obsessive thoughts. I'm now seeing her regularly and she hopes to cure me using cognitive behavioral therapy.

I'm a hypochondriac, and if you don't know what that means, any awkward bodily sensation I feel, is a good enough reason for me to drive to the ER. I've been to the ER 3 times this past month because I thought I was having a heart attack, stroke, and blood clot on 3 different occasions. Turns out it was just a panic attack. I've also developed this fear of being poisoned, by the government (irrational, I know) so I'm always throwing out perfectly good things like milk and butter. I also have this intense fear of flying because I feel like I'm destined to die if I get on one. I can't even fly to visit my family whom I miss, even though we get free tickets b/c my dad works for an airline. I'm a mess right now, can't stop thinking about death and loved ones.

The way this has been affecting my school is that I'm sometimes afraid to go to class, for fear that I'll have a heart attack and be too far away from the hospital which is by my apartment. Also, and most importantly, one of the classic symptoms of depression is that you no longer get any excitement or have any interest in previously enjoyed hobbies/subjects. Physics for me, was a MAJOR hobby/subject. But now, with my depression lingering, I sometimes feel very depressed even thinking about physics. The real shame is that I know it's not me who's changed, but the disease is controlling me. I want to feel like I have before, and spend countless hours in front of my whiteboard solving challenging and stimulating problems, but I can't due to depression.

This quarter, I've stopped taking physics classes and have switched to computer science, because I can't stand doing physics anymore, and thought computer science is the next practical thing. In fact, I've even fallen a year behind in physics because of this, and received poor grades last quarter, failing classical mechanics. I've also been so exhausted and have no energy to study for any classes, let any motivation to do so. I pretty much just mope around all day.

I guess my real question is, would this be an "excuse" to physics graduate schools for poor undergrad performance? And what can I do to re-ignite my passion?

Please help..feeling so down :(
Post edited by CyberShot on

Replies to: Severe anxiety/depression and grad school

  • MaceVindalooMaceVindaloo Posts: 221Registered User Junior Member
    I don't think explaining your issue will help your cause with graduate schools unless you can show you have it under control, which it does not seem like you do yet. You need to see how your therapy helps and perhaps any medication before you decide to pursue graduate school. In all honesty, I do not see how you can pursue graduate school in the state you seem to be in now. I also don't think anyone here can help you get over your depression about physics, because as you said, it is a symptom of a larger problem that will best be solved through therapy.


    HOWEVER, you should NOT be discouraged about graduate school. You should first accept that these feelings are a result of something else and try to deal with that. You have plenty of time, and there is no need to go to graduate school right away. Fix your issue and then pursue graduate school knowing you have your passion for physics again.
  • nysmilenysmile Posts: 5,848Registered User Senior Member
    You should visit a new psychiatrist and seriously consider meds.
  • nysmilenysmile Posts: 5,848Registered User Senior Member
    Your focus right now should be addressing your mental health. You can always resume your education later when your mental health is managed and more stable.

    Seriously consider visiting a new psychiatrist. Get a new evaluation and with your new doctor, plan out a new course of treatment. The addition of meds (if recommended by the psychiatrist) can help tremendously.
  • trisprefecttrisprefect Posts: 19Registered User New Member
    I feel for you, I went through very similar things in college (only graduated this past year). I've always had anxiety issues (seen a therapist off and on since I was 8), but for whatever reason I started having major panic attacks (ie shaking uncontrollably for 7 hours straight) halfway through freshman year. It's very scary and very depressing to know that there's something in your mind that's preventing you from doing what you want to be doing.

    What you need to do is keep seeing a psychiatrist and see if you can get some form of medication. Don't be discouraged if the first pill you try doesn't work out for you, it takes time and (as weird as it is to say this) a little bit of experimentation for you to find the cocktail of psychiatric meds that will work for you. I was on Prozac, then Remeron, then Buspar and Klonopin, then finally Celexa, so it does take some work. But the most important thing is to get yourself back to normal. Then you can worry about pulling your grades up. If you can show that you had a minor setback due to medical issues but have since become a model student, I should think that would go a long way with admissions counselors.

    But for now, just focus on getting better. Take a leave of absence if you really think it is necessary.
  • neurotexasgalneurotexasgal Posts: 28Registered User New Member
    I agree with the others. Your health is of the utmost importance here. Although I have no doubts that you would be able to push through and deal with it, you may want to ask yourself if it is worth it in the long run? Is it better to regroup, see another psychiatrist, take a break from school, and get this sorted out? Or is it better to continue on like this, causing setbacks to your scholastic career? I think it may be easier to come back from a leave of absence rather than trying to explain why you did poorly in the last year or so.

    Furthermore, having studied (just briefly) disorders such as OCD, they can be very debilitating and difficult to manage on your own. If your current treatment plan is not working (which it sounds like it isn't), then I strongly urge you to see someone else, or be persistent with your current doctor. Without good intervention these symptoms can worsen and can be completely disruptive.
  • mochamavenmochamaven Posts: 878Registered User Member
    cognitive behavioral therapy can be really helpful, but you REALLY have to do all the "homework." Seriously. No skipping it, no putting it off. Whatever your therapist tells you to do for CBT, do it. You'll feel more anxious before you feel better, but as long as you can make it past the initial couple weeks, it can be life-changing.
  • nysmilenysmile Posts: 5,848Registered User Senior Member
    mocha, Read the first post. This has been a problem since he was a child--no improvement.
    It's gotten worse and worse over the years and it has a significant effect on the OP's quality of life. CBT is great for some, but the OP has multiple mental health issues (not just OCD).
    The OP's current course of treatment is not helping. The symptoms are getting worse.
    This is why I suggest that he/she try a new psychiatrist and get a new mental health evaluation. The OP has struggled for the majority of his/her life and things are getting worse. It's time to look for another form of treatment which may include the use of meds.
    Stop fearing the meds. Once the right med (or combination) is found, it can be life altering in a very positive way.

    Just as seeking out a second opinion with a physician, it can be a very good idea to seek out a second opinion with a psychiatrist. A treatment for one person may not be effective for another. I highly recommend for the OP to seek an evaluation from a new psychiatrist and listen to what the new psychiatrist suggests for a plan of treatment.
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