Help, nursing with GAD?


Hello all, I'm a current nursing student who's strongly considering dropping out of the program. I really need advice on whether or not I should stay! My problem is that I've had an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. I used to really want to be a nurse, and in a lot of ways I'm perfect for it, but after I became a CNA I've been reconsidering. I get so anxious about going to work that I've come down sick a few times just from being so stressed. I used to lifeguard and even that brought on anxiety attacks. The idea of having somebody's life in my hands is just terrifying for me. I'm trying to conquer it, but so far it's not working.

I totally thrive on science and I love helping people, but from what I hear, nursing sounds incredibly stressful, and I really don't want attacks just from going to work. Do you think it's worth it for me to finish nursing school or should I try finding a different job in a related field? Does the stress of being a nurse go away with a few year's experience?

Thanks so much for the read and for your input!!


454 Posts

Specializes in ER, Med-surg.

I have GAD and it can be a challenge; however, for me it primarily manifests in an inability to wind down after work/experiencing anxiety after the fact, which is very unpleasant for me at times, but doesn't generally affect my ability to function professionally.

If being a CNA is stressing you out (for "I'm afraid I'm going to kill someone" reasons rather than "this is a very physically demanding and exhausting job" reasons) that might be a sign that you aren't really cut out for nursing, because your responsibility and scope will increase dramatically after you become a nurse. But if you've only been a CNA a short time, I'd give it a while. Changing jobs is extremely stressful even without an anxiety disorder; with one it can be overwhelming, but as you become more competent and comfortable, it does tend to ease off.

The stress of being a brand new nurse and feeling like you know nothing and have no time management skills and are just totally overwhelmed? That goes away- it trickles off a little at a time over the first year or so until one day you realize you just had a really "bad" shift and it was no big thing.

But in nursing there will always been stressful moments and peoples' lives really will be in your hands, so the opportunity for GAD symptoms to manifest is always there unless you happen to be good at compartmentalizing. And compartmentalization comes at a psychological and emotional cost- your cool collectedness during a code may be traded off with starting at the ceiling with a racing pulse and nausea that night.

It's really a personal call. I stuck with nursing despite my GAD because I was interested in it, it was a good job, and because I felt like if I was going to constantly feel like I was in a state of emergency and everything was a potential catastrophe anyway, I might as well go ahead and actually WORK with emergencies. But that's not for everybody.

Do consider therapy and possible medication if you aren't already being treated. It can make a real difference in your quality of life and options.