Are you paranoid about your health?

Have you ever felt that pang of worry whilst covering a health topic, that you seem to have some of those symptoms. That somehow you've managed to get a case of Lupus erythematosus. 

Well you are not alone, as this phenomenon has been seen in a wide variety of health science students, from psychologists through to med students.

Those who first described the phenomenon came up with a highly original name, 'Medical student syndrome'. And in short there is no need to be worried if you think you are showing symptoms of this syndrome. Unless of course you also believe you have hypochondrias, a few other anxiety and mood disorders or some other disease than you may need to see your local doctor/a psychologist.

Medical Student Syndrome is categorised by a belief that you are suffering from an illness (usual one that you are learning about in lectures or for study) without professional evidence to support that belief.

Basically, Medical student syndrome is a form of self-imposed literary hypochondria.

It seems to an extent that learning about different aspects of one's health, makes one feel like their current situation is unhealthy. This is why Medical Student Syndrome can effect anyone studying health sciences. Several studies have shown that some psychology students also start to think that they have certain mental illnesses.

Like other psychological disorders Medical Student Syndrome is only a problem when it disrupts your life (e.g. it results in high levels of anxiety and stress). This is an important distinction, because the symptoms associated with disorders are quite basic and people can overanalyse the degree to which they are displaying that symptom.

Now while others have said that it is natural (to a degree) for health students to feel like they have certain diseases, I warn against completely discounting your own judgement.

I discounted information I found out during a course studying the respiratory system, where for a practical we were required to test our breathing function using spirometers. The results of these test showed I had abnormal breathing function, but I ignored these results, partly because I was asymptomatic (i.e. had no noticeable observable symptoms). Later however, during a diving medical, and subsequent specialist visits it was confirmed that I did have issue with my lungs and thus required medical treatment.

So while not entirely related to Medical Student Syndrome it is important not to entirely discount information or perceived symptoms. A quick visit to the doctor to check may end up saving your life.

Below is a list of journal articles used in this article. I recommend the second one if you are interested in finding out more information as it is a review article and is freely accessible.

Psychological distress and the "medical student syndrome" in abnormal psychology students

Imagined illnesses can cause real problems for medical students