‘It’s very real’: All about medical student syndrome, a condition that can have a huge impact on the mental health of MBBS students

Sagnik Sarkar, a final-year MBBS student, confesses that he often gets anxious during visits to the ward where he is being given medication. Reflecting the same, 25-year-old Dr. Jayesh Agarwal, who is pursuing MS Orthopedic JR 2 from Lucknow, experienced severe symptoms and then suddenly had a pot spine (tuberculosis spine) or tuberculosis hip (spinal infection). I felt that I was suffering from back pain and fever. He was finally relieved after having his MRI and his X-ray, the results of which were “normal.”

But it’s not just them. Digging deeper, I discovered that many students studying medicine often experience something called medical student syndrome (MSS). self-reported symptoms of the conditions they have studied. For example, a simple headache could be a warning sign of a brain tumor, or an anxiety attack is actually a pheochromocytoma (an adrenal gland tumor), or the most common (read: worst) is sexual Some think it’s a fear of getting excited.Contagious diseases from handling used needles or blood/body fluids infected patient.

“This can also be felt in emergencies when a patient’s HIV/HBV[hepatitis B]status is unknown but must be managed,” said Sagnik, who is based in Pune. Tezpur, who was caring for an Assam’s patient, walking 80 kilometers from Nagaland, complained of severe uterine bleeding from a failed abortion.

“More than four hours after surgery, they said she HIV+veSo for such exposures, there are protocols in place to start medication as soon as possible, but the fear and uncertainty[of getting infected from a patient]still remains,” Sagnik told indianexpress.com.

Echoing similar sentiments, Dr. Agarwal said:Most Medical Students Initiate Reciprocity disease And it’s a condition they read about in books and see with the patients they work with on OPD. ”

So this mental health awareness monthlet’s understand the nuances of this “syndrome” observed every May and how it is interpreted in the medical community.

Why does MSS occur?

Explaining the science behind such thoughts (and emotions), Drisha Dey, a Kolkata-based consultant psychologist, says that MSS is actually a “trick” played by the mind, in which pre-existing behaviors and symptoms Once said to be associated with diagnostic criteria for the disease. The latter is learned. “When we look for answers, our brains look for answers. The reticular activation system is a mechanism in the brain that shows more of what we focus on,” she said. says.

According to Sagnik, 22, there are multiple facets to understanding why MSS occurs. Every MBBS student or doctor is trained to investigate according to the medical history and symptoms provided by the patient: “We make a list of her D/D (differential diagnosis) based on are trained to patient complaints, histories, and investigative reports (X-rays, USGs, ultrasounds, etc.). Our final her D/D, after all else has been ruled out, is psychogenic illness. That is, the patient feigns illness or is in that psychological state (called somatoform disorder). This is a diagnosis of exclusion that I can come up with only after excluding everything else. So do our students. If a medical student complains of any symptoms, he doesn’t immediately think of MSS, but only of the possible conditions he’s read about,” Sagnik explained.

Here’s what the syndrome feels like (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

He also added that there is also an overly analytical bent of mind that arises from “studying too much theory”, which can also “leave a deep mark”. , just add a cocktail of academic shortcomings, personal life problems, mentally fragile/imaginative minds, etc.,” he continued.


Symptoms of MSS can vary from person to person, says Dr. Gautami Nagabhirava, a neuropsychiatrist at Kamineni Hospital in Hyderabad. “Some students experience mild symptoms such as headaches and abdominal pain, while others experience more severe symptoms such as chest pain and abdominal pain. difficulty breathingThese symptoms can cause significant distress and anxiety in students, who may begin to worry that they have the disease they are studying.

What is the impact on medical students?

Also known as hypochondriasis or medical student’s disease, Dr. Nagaviraba said the condition is not a recognized medical diagnosis and is based on the ICD-10 and DSM-5 (the two major globally accepted It is only listed as part of the “hypochondriacal disorders” classified under the Classification of Diseases. .

Still, Dr. Nagaviraba said it was “very real and can have a huge impact on the mental health of medical students.” manifest For medical students studying complex or life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It’s not uncommon for medical students to become so absorbed in their studies that they begin to think they have the disease they are studying,” says Dr Nagabhirava.

Dey shared that it can be “very uncomfortable to constantly worry” about what new illness you might have, and it’s better to seek help from seniors or other professionals. said.

Is everyone in danger?

Obstetrician and gynecologist Sneha Sarraf, M.D., revealed she did not experience such symptoms during her school days, but psychiatrist, Deepak Raheja, M.D. said, “All students are at risk.” It’s not like I’m there,” he pointed out.

“Severity and duration can vary. Some students experience mild, temporary symptoms that resolve on their own, while others persist and require professional help. That being said, MSS is not a sign of weakness or inadequacy, but a natural reaction to the rigorous training and education that medical students experience.

What can I do to help?

Medical students experiencing symptoms of MSS should: mental health professionalsaid Dr Nagabilava. “Counseling and therapy can help manage symptoms and reduce associated anxiety and stress,” he said.

Dr. Nagaviraba added that people should strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance, which means taking breaks when necessary and engaging in non-academic activities. “In addition, medical students should try to stay informed about the signs and symptoms of her MSS so they can recognize it early and seek help if needed,” says Dr. Nagabhirava. added.

Is it easy to deal with?

“It’s never been that serious” among peers, Sagnik said, “It’s kind of a phase that goes away when you mature.” On the contrary, according to him, “growing up with MBBS” makes you a little “desensitized” to the same because you see and read about so many ailments by your last years. “Rather than being emotional or enthusiastic about the disease or the person itself, they see it as a medically interesting case. Eventually it becomes a regular part of the profession,” Sagnik says.

Objectivity is man’s best friend, Dey stressed. “There are many symptoms that must be met before the disease is diagnosed. It is best to remain calm, go through the checklist like any other patient, and come to a sober conclusion. recommend to. Discuss this with colleagues and seniors Who knows where they came from,” Day said.

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