Getting through nursing school with mental health problems


I love nursing school. I truly do. It's made me a very busy and rather poor person, which I expected. I have been struggling with some tough mental health issues and I'm worried it's going to affect my school work. I have problems with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia apparently, anxiety, depression, probably a mosaic of other problems that come with that combination. It gets to the point where I feel physically terrified in my classrooms because I'm afraid everyone will see how ugly I am. I know as a nurse I've got to grow a thick skin. So far I've toughed it out and not missed a single class, but it's exhausting to put on a brave face all day, then come home and cry for two hours and have an anxiety attack, then go study. I get enough sleep and eat as well as I can but it's a small chip in a big rock of problems. To all the nurses who also struggle with mental disorders, what do you do for yourself? How do you cope?


570 Posts

Are you under a physicians care for these issues? Do you see a therapist? If not I think that this step should be the first one.

Kudos to you for acknowledging your problems and not letting them hold you back.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 17 years experience.

Moved to the General Nursing Student forum.

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VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,981 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 26 years experience.

I'm probably not the best person to advise you since my nursing career was torpedoed by a nasty case of bipolar 1. But I can tell you that if you're not doing so already, PLEASE see a mental health professional for proper treatment of your illnesses. You don't have to be this miserable! And if you are seeing a provider, you may want to ask him or her to adjust your meds/therapy, as your current treatment is clearly not working well. Wishing you the very best in your pursuit of a nursing career and better mental health.


25 Posts

I have type 1 bipolar disorder and just started nursing school. I registered with my university's disabilities office, and keep to my weekly therapy and monthly med management appointments to keep myself afloat. I also try to maintain a regular sleep/wake cycle as much as possible so I don't tip into a manic episode. And I take all my medications as prescribed.

verene, MSN

1,790 Posts

Specializes in mental health / psychiatic nursing.

I second earlier suggestions to connect with a mental health provider if you are not already. If you do not already have one check out what services may be offered through your school. I recently found out my university offers FREE mental health services (therapy and med management) to students. Free or reduced cost services through a student health center may well be an option for you. Even if they don't cover what you need student health/counseling centers are usually great places to get referrals to outside providers if you need that service.


1 Article; 327 Posts

I echo the others in saying that if you're not under the care of a doctor and/or therapist for those things, please strongly consider doing so. That can be one of the most difficult steps to take. Acknowledging there's an issue, and then seeking out help, both of which can feel very difficult to do.

I've struggled with an eating disorder most of my life. I've also struggled with depression and anxiety. I really thought I had depression and anxiety under control though. I realized during the spring semester this year that I really didn't. I was ready to drop out because I just felt like I'd never be able to get through it. I figured I'd struggle with the eating disorder the rest of my life, but I at least wanted to regain some control over anxiety.

I stuck with school, and I had finally asked for help during the short break between my spring and summer semester. I was diagnosed with ADHD on top of the other things. I started on some meds with some changes to others that I had started last fall (postpartum depression). I just took it day by day. It was a struggle every day. I spoke with the counselor at school and got things squared away there. As hard as it was to be going to therapy, working on a lifetime's worth of issues, and keeping up with school, I stuck with it.

I slowly started noticing changes in myself, and noticed the positive changes in how I was at school and interacted with my classmates and performed in clinical. I had another med change after summer semester and had a 3 week break to adjust to the change. I'm finally on the right combination of everything.

For the first time in my life, I'm actually having days where I don't binge or purge at all which is something I never dreamed possible. I'm finally starting to accept myself a little more as time goes on. I don't focus on my appearance so much and what my classmates are thinking of how I look as much. Some days are harder than others, but I try to block those thoughts out as much as possible.

My thoughts on my appearance is pretty much what destroyed my confidence in clinical. I eventually started telling myself that the patient doesn't care what I look like (whether that's actually true or not), and that the patient needs me to be focused on them and taking care of them rather than causing them to feel unsure of me because they can sense or see that I'm not comfortable. I also knew I'd probably end up failing clinical if I couldn't figure out a way to at least deal with it during clinical.

Once I started doing that along with being on proper meds and talking to someone, there's really been a huge difference. I still have a long way to go, but I'm laughing now and actually starting to really enjoy the whole experience. Some days are still harder than others where I would rather stay in bed all day and not go to class, but knowing how far I've come and seeing the positive changes is enough to keep me pushing through each day.

It's exhausting. Absolutely exhausting to push through each and every day, having to add in counseling to my already too chaotic of a schedule, and then fighting my mind on a daily basis. I'm so glad that I ultimately made that decision to get help, and even more grateful that I've stuck with it. I love the person I'm becoming, and I'm looking forward to loving the person that I become once I'm on the other side of this. My kids and nursing school have really been the things that keep me going back, keep me trying to move forward. I remind myself every day of why I'm doing this, both going to counseling and nursing school, and that keeps me going and keeps me working on me, and by doing that, I'm able to cope a little bit better as time goes on.