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Anxiety in PA school

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Hi all,

Need some help/advice for dealing with anxiety.

I just started my first quarter of PA school about a month ago. At first glance, everything is seemingly going great- classmates are nice and I have made A's on all exams up to this point.
However, I have been dealing with a LOT of anxiety since day 1. It makes me feel not like myself at all! It has turned me into a quiet, sheepish, and slightly awkward person. I hate this.
At first, it was believing I wasn't as smart as my peers or outgoing enough (so, more of a social intimidation, unintentionally). Then, I convinced myself I'd probably not make it through the first quarter because of the sheer volume of info. Now that I've proved to myself I can conquer the material (so far), I still feel insecure because I find it difficult to connect with my peers. Sometimes I feel like I can't be my true self around them since we are supposed to maintain our professionalism. 

Overall, I just feel a bit lonely and anxious with moving out of state and starting this rigorous program and I don't feel like I have an outlet. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, honestly why I am posting about this anonymously. I don't like to ask for help- and actually no one who knows me knows I struggle with this. But this kind of anxiety is a new beast I haven't dealt with before. Almost feels like my throat is being strangled :/. Considering therapy, but who has time for that??

Will any of this get better? 

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yes and no


Medicine (atleast in this country) is an anxiety producing profession.....

But it should not be crippling...


As for the first year of PA school - yup it is intense, hard, demanding and scary....

Find yourself a study group - likely everyone is feeling the same, help others and they will help you...

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I felt the same exact way. You need to get some professional help, use your school resources. I don’t think I would have been able to make it throughout PA school without my therapist and medication. If  you have any questions or concerns about seeking therapy, please PM me. It does get better. 

You’ll be surprised, most of your classmates are probably feeling the same way, but they are not disclosing their feelings because they feel similar to you. 

I wish mental health was more acceptable to discuss during PA school. It seems to me that we have similar experiences. Everyone was “hush hush” about anxiety and they were ashamed to seek help. 

You get help people without helping yourself first. 

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Guest HanSolo

First few months are tough because everyone is still trying to prove themselves to a certain extent. It's easy to feel lonely since so much of the focus is inward during didactic year. It gets better as you move along, especially once some of those walls go down and people become comfortable with each other. I didn't really find "my people" until about 4-6 months in. 

In the meantime, your school should have some mental health resources for students. Absolutely no shame in reaching out to them! That's what they are there for. I'd also highly recommend finding a personal outlet. Whatever hobby or hobbies you liked doing before school you should continue to do during school. 

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ASK FOR HELP. I know it's hard, but anxiety can quickly spiral out of control. Your school should offer therapy services, which are often free. Many of my current classmates are utilizing these services and there is no judgement for it. Reach out to your friends, family, whatever support system you have as well. PA school is hard for everyone, in many ways, and we all need a little help. You are not alone. Even though our schedules are tight, there's time for therapy if you need it. Many of my friend's appointments are during lunch hours or before/after class on "lighter" days.

I feel really strongly about this because in my second month of PA school, we had a classmate struggling with depression (unbeknownst to us) who took her own life. Our class was not prepared for that loss in the slightest, but we relied on each other, got closer, and have been working through our stresses together. 

Overall, it does get better! I'm in my second semester and I've finally (mostly) figured out how to handle the stresses of PA school, including tackling unrelated stressors I didn't even first realize I had, like maintaining a complete budget for the first time. I had some serious Imposter Syndrome my first semester too, but after realizing pretty much everyone else felt the same way, it was so much easier. Give it time on getting comfortable with your classmates. Every program's environment is different, but mine is very open and we are all at a point that we goof off regularly and have a good time, while still maintaining the "professionalism" when we need to. Be yourself. You'll find your group of friends over time. I found a few really great friends in the program that I am super close to now, and we help each other get through both our great days and our rough ones.

Best of luck. Get some help. You can do this! 

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Definitely speak to one of the faculty that may be Psych-oriented, we have one on faculty. Also, talk to your faculty advisor if you were assigned one. I am sure at least one other person has already visited them.

I am 3 semesters in and still feel the same way as far as upcoming exams, is this the one I fail?? But so far so good, even though I have failed maybe 2 exams, not horribly but by a question or two. Since day one though, I've had the fear of failing out, but at the same time it is okay. It means you really want it. 

As for classmates, I promise everyone is feeling the same way. First month is kind of rocky. I've seen people switch cliques throughout the semesters, you will eventually find your group.   Thankfully, our group clicked within a month, now they're drinking buddies and share dirty jokes all the time.We even started off studying with other groups and kind of branched off on our own and realized we mesh better just the 4 of us.

Our class has a facebook group so eventually people will open up about their anxieties on there and you will realize everyone is pretty much feeling the same way all the time. If you don't have one yet, I suggest one for your class. People will also upload their notes. One thing about our program was that they made it clear that the whole cut throat competitiveness ended in undergrad and our time during PA school is to help each other out when in need.  

PA school is HUUUUUGE rollercoaster. Plenty of ups and more than its share of downs. Besides the test anxiety, I think the worst thing has been sitting in a chair all day every day while in class or studying, over and over and over. Repeat and rinse. Literally show up to class at 7:30am, end class at 5pm and drive home knowing you have to put in studying time until at least 10pm on some days. 

Hang in there.  It goes by VERY quickly too. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

All of you are amazing. Thank you for taking the time to send encouraging words, helpful advice, and share personal experiences. Knowing that I'm not the only one, even on an anonymous forum, is really consoling. And things have gotten better- I took the advice to relax more around everyone and everything is starting to feel way more natural and I am starting to realize after talking to other classmates that they felt overwhelmed and anxious too. So we are all beginning to trust each other and open up.

Thanks for caring and being amazing PAs!!

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