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What's the deal with anxiety meds for students?

Posted

I hear of so many students taking anxiety meds to get through nursing school. Is this the norm? I realize this is going to be a emotional roller coaster and am trying to prepare myself mentally. I was just curious if most students do take something to help them through it. I've been talking to some students currently in the program and was surprised to hear that so many of them do.

Insight?

I have a friend in my program (first term nursing school) who is a very good student. She has never had a problem with test anxiety or stress in the past. However, less than a month in to our program, she started having problems with her blood pressure. No family history, no personal history of blood pressure problems. She spent about 3 weeks monitoring her blood pressure and a couple of weeks ago her PCP put her on a betablocker. They discussed options - meds for anxiety or meds for hypertension. They decided on blood pressure meds rather than anxiety meds, but they were an option they discussed.

Granted, the result of this situation is not anxiety meds. But, nursing school is very stressful and affects some people quite a bit physically.

Edited by shortnorthstudent

decembergrad2011, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 12 years experience.

I am not on anti-anxiety medication, and have no plans to start it, but I have NEVER been so stressed out in my life as I am being in nursing school. The only thing that can compare is when I was 11 and my parents got divorced - it's that bad! I have generalized anxiety (or possibly "Pure O," which is OCD without rituals and often misdiagnosed as GAD) and it skyrocketed when I began nursing school. I found myself incessantly worrying about grades, having test anxiety, and having emotional moments a lot.

It eventually led to my decision to seek help with the counseling and testing center on my campus. I had a couple of individual sessions with a counselor, and we made the decision for myself to do group therapy. It is fantastic to just have a safe outlet. I do not have any plans for starting medication and I believe that the therapy is enough for me.

I would encourage anyone who is dealing with anxiety - PLEASE GET HELP. You can't properly take care of patients if you can't take care of yourself. There is no shame in having medical issues as a healthcare professional. We are not suddenly immune from health problems, including mental health problems, because we understand the pathophysiology behind it. I look forward to a day when we embrace our nursing students with anxiety and teach them ways to combat it - and without medication as the first option, which is, in my humble opinion, the easy way out.

Edited by decembergrad2011

I know people that have gone that route. But I know I won't go there. It's stessfull yes, but to me it isn't worth becoming dependent on a drug. I think we as a society have become too accustomed to a quick fix and that's why so many of us are now dependent on some kind of drug to keep us going. There are plenty of other ways to reduce anxiety(exercise, creative outlets, just allowing yourself time to relax and have fun). I know this is libel to offend others out there who may be taking an anxiolytic, but I'm not meaning for it to. I realize everyone is different and some may truly need these meds. I am just very cautious about them because I have seen people I love become addicted to prescription pills and I have seen how it can tear people and families apart. I have a friend in nursing school who started taking them and I have seen her personality change and now she is not doing well on tests when she was always an A student in all other nursing classes. Anyways this is just my opinion.

Yuppers21

Specializes in Med/Surg, ICU. Has 4 years experience.

I too worry about the number of students who seem to be on meds. It seems this day that there are many people out there that simply want a pill to fix their problems, rather than try other options first. For those that truly need, I am thankful these meds are available, but it seems that some may be too quick to turn to them and not explore equally effective alternatives.

kgh31386, BSN, MSN, RN

Has 4 years experience.

It's not the norm. School is only as bad as you let it be. It really wasn't that bad, the end =)

tiredstudentmom

Specializes in Medical Assisting. Has 5 years experience.

As with many things, this too may be exaggerated. I agree that many folks (doctors and patients alike) are far too reliant upon pill popping to cure what ails them. Yuppers21 mentioned that they were glad though that these meds were available to those that really do require them. I myself have conditions that require meds: depression, anxiety, and GAD. Is this gonna stop me from being a nurse and getting through nursing school? Heck no! For those that cannot control their conditions/symptoms, meds provide the necessary treatment. With a combination of behavior mods and meds, I can function really well. It also helps to have a good support system in place, which I do. At my NS orientation they recommend that we get our life in order before nursing school starts. I have been doing that very thing, preparing myself mentally/emotionally for the year ahead of me. I know I can do it, but it's because I have readied myself. As long as we have a prescription for what we take, we are okay as long as we are not impaired while we are in class or clinicals.

I don't even take tylenol, lol. I think it's sad and pathetic that people pop a pill like they're candy. I HOPE this isn't the norm!

I don't even take tylenol, lol. I think it's sad and pathetic that people pop a pill like they're candy. I HOPE this isn't the norm!

I hope you haven't had Mental Health nursing with that attitude. If you have, I feel for the patients you cared for who needed to "pop pills like candy." Would you say that to someone who needed meds for high blood pressure or any other medical disorder? :smackingf

I've never needed any kind of medication, but I certainly do not fault those who do.

I have a friend in my program (first term nursing school) who is a very good student. She has never had a problem with test anxiety or stress in the past. However, less than a month in to our program, she started having problems with her blood pressure. No family history, no personal history of blood pressure problems. She spent about 3 weeks monitoring her blood pressure and a couple of weeks ago her PCP put her on a betablocker. They discussed options - meds for anxiety or meds for hypertension. They decided on blood pressure meds rather than anxiety meds, but they were an option they discussed.

Granted, the result of this situation is not anxiety meds. But, nursing school is very stressful and affects some people quite a bit physically.

This is interesting as I was having heart palpitations that really started during my first semester and went in and found out I have a small, benevolent arrythmia. I think the amount of stress itself on your body is incredible

I think the truth is that for many people, nursing school is the most intensive stress they've had to manage. Through the course of a nursing program, any mild mental health (or health for that matter) weaknesses, which have previously been just managed by an individual, can become unmanageable due to that stress.

I also think it's very easy for fellow nursing students to judge those who choose to treat disorders such as anxiety with medication. There can be a "holier than thou" aspect of...well since I didn't need medication when I was stressed out, it's not really needed....they're just being weak and taking the easy way out.

But we all have our own experiences, and our own genetic predispositions. If a mental health condition is impairing a student's ability to perform, they need to get professional help. That professional help may include medication. No one but the student and their health care professional have the right to judge this treatment plan. For anyone else to do so just show's a level of ignorance and prejudice on their part. As with most things, it says far more about the person judging, than the person being judged.

To the OP: no, I don't think it's the norm. But I do think that many folks get diagnosed with mental health conditions during nursing school for the reasons I stated in the beginning of the post.

And no, I don't take medication for anxiety....so, I've not taken this personally. I just really dislike when folks who, from their education should know better, choose to pick on someone who is already having a tough time.

Edited by CuriousMe

tiredstudentmom

Specializes in Medical Assisting. Has 5 years experience.

I think the truth is that for many people, nursing school is the most intensive stress they've had to manage. Through the course of a nursing program, any mild mental health (or health for that matter) weaknesses, which have previously been just managed by an individual, can become unmanageable due to that stress.

I also think it's very easy for fellow nursing students to judge those who choose to treat disorders such as anxiety with medication. There can be a "holier than thou" aspect of...well since I didn't need medication when I was stressed out, it's not really needed....they're just being weak and taking the easy way out.

But we all have our own experiences, and our own genetic predispositions. If a mental health condition is impairing a student's ability to perform, they need to get professional help. That professional help may include medication. No one but the student and their health care professional have the right to judge this treatment plan. For anyone else to do so just show's a level of ignorance and prejudice on the part on their part. As with most things, it says far more about the person judging, than the person being judged.

To the OP: no, I don't think it's the norm. But I do think that many folks get diagnosed with mental health conditions during nursing school for the reasons I stated in the beginning of the post.

And no, I don't take medication for anxiety....so, I've not taken this personally. I just really dislike when folks who, from their education should know better, choose to pick on someone who is already having a tough time.

I think you hit the nail on the head quite succinctly! We are not here to judge others, but rather to help one another. :up:

decembergrad2011, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 12 years experience.

I think the truth is that for many people, nursing school is the most intensive stress they've had to manage. Through the course of a nursing program, any mild mental health (or health for that matter) weaknesses, which have previously been just managed by an individual, can become unmanageable due to that stress.

I also think it's very easy for fellow nursing students to judge those who choose to treat disorders such as anxiety with medication. There can be a "holier than thou" aspect of...well since I didn't need medication when I was stressed out, it's not really needed....they're just being weak and taking the easy way out.

But we all have our own experiences, and our own genetic predispositions. If a mental health condition is impairing a student's ability to perform, they need to get professional help. That professional help may include medication. No one but the student and their health care professional have the right to judge this treatment plan. For anyone else to do so just show's a level of ignorance and prejudice on the part on their part. As with most things, it says far more about the person judging, than the person being judged.

To the OP: no, I don't think it's the norm. But I do think that many folks get diagnosed with mental health conditions during nursing school for the reasons I stated in the beginning of the post.

And no, I don't take medication for anxiety....so, I've not taken this personally. I just really dislike when folks who, from their education should know better, choose to pick on someone who is already having a tough time.

I don't think that beginning medication without trying out coping mechanisms that can be learned in therapy is the right thing, except in extreme cases. Even then, I believe that those who are on anti-anxiety medications should also do therapy simultaneously in order to learn how to deal with their anxiety. Of course people who need anti-anxiety medication should take it - but I find that many students are like me in that they have bad anxiety, but not to the point where they are unable to function. There are options before medication that should be explored.

I say this as someone who DOES have anxiety, who HAS been offered medication by an MD, and denied it because I didn't want to reduce my therapeutic management of my anxiety to taking a pill every day. I asked for a referral to a therapist instead because I wanted to exhaust that option before beginning a daily regimen of medication. Once I was in therapy, I realized that I was able to manage my anxiety without medication, utilizing tools that I learned within. I also say this as a student that plans on going into mental health - I have absolutely no judgment for those with mental health problems who need medication to stabilize and function on a daily basis in the least.

Medication is a serious thing, and it does have side effects, and this is especially true for mental health drugs. I think it's ignorant to argue otherwise. I don't think anyone has argued that those with extreme anxiety, panic attacks, etc to the point of not being able to function should be judged for taking or denied medication. However, there is definitely a culture forming of patients wanting to take a pill for their problems rather than taking a look at their lifestyle and making lifelong changes that could combat their health issues just as well, if not better. If every obese person could take a pill to make them magically lose 30 lbs a year rather than exercising, even at the cost of knowing it could hurt their kidneys, would they take it? I'm sure they would - that's the kind of culture we have in America. It's sad, but it's true. I think that's all anyone is commenting on.

I don't think that beginning medication without trying out coping mechanisms that can be learned in therapy is the right thing, except in extreme cases. Even then, I believe that those who are on anti-anxiety medications should also do therapy simultaneously in order to learn how to deal with their anxiety. Of course people who need anti-anxiety medication should take it - but I find that many students are like me in that they have bad anxiety, but not to the point where they are unable to function. There are options before medication that should be explored.

I say this as someone who DOES have anxiety, who HAS been offered medication by an MD, and denied it because I didn't want to reduce my therapeutic management of my anxiety to taking a pill every day. I asked for a referral to a therapist instead because I wanted to exhaust that option before beginning a daily regimen of medication. Once I was in therapy, I realized that I was able to manage my anxiety without medication, utilizing tools that I learned within. I also say this as a student that plans on going into mental health - I have absolutely no judgment for those with mental health problems who need medication to stabilize and function on a daily basis in the least.

Medication is a serious thing, and it does have side effects, and this is especially true for mental health drugs. I think it's ignorant to argue otherwise. I don't think anyone has argued that those with extreme anxiety, panic attacks, etc to the point of not being able to function should be judged for taking or denied medication. However, there is definitely a culture forming of patients wanting to take a pill for their problems rather than taking a look at their lifestyle and making lifelong changes that could combat their health issues just as well, if not better. If every obese person could take a pill to make them magically lose 30 lbs a year rather than exercising, even at the cost of knowing it could hurt their kidneys, would they take it? I'm sure they would - that's the kind of culture we have in America. It's sad, but it's true. I think that's all anyone is commenting on.

I understand that you are speaking as someone who struggles with this condition. So, you have a wealth of knowledge about how this condition impacts you. However, you have no more knowledge on how a condition impacts others. I stand by my assertion that no one, but the student and their health care provider have the right to judge a treatment plan. Just as you know the best plan for you, other's know the best plan for them.

Additionally....how do you know that someone on anxiety medication isn't doing the things you mentioned already? You don't because, only the health care provider and the student would know that.

So, as I said before....only the student and the provider get to decide if the treatment plan is appropriate.

decembergrad2011, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 12 years experience.

...Why are you assuming I am judging anyone because I am expressing an opinion? You keep harping on this point, but from what I've read, no one has been judgmental about a student who needs anti-anxiety medication - just the culture of using medication to cure all ailments as the first line of defense. Convenient comparison, but I feel just as strongly about overweight individuals seeking OTC weight loss pills instead of actively changing their diet, increasing their exercise, and portion control.

Yes, I believe that an MD simply throwing pills at someone, which is what my experience and MANY of my fellow anxiety-sufferers' experience has been when seeking help from their PCP, is wrong. I will never think otherwise because primary care physicians are not mental health professionals, and I do not believe they should prescribe mental health medication when their knowledge is limited. If anything, my criticism here is with the healthcare providers, and NOT the students/patients.

It seems to me that you aren't understanding what I'm saying if you believe that I've stated that medication is wrong in any and all cases, because I haven't stated that once.

GooeyRN, ADN, BSN, CNA, LPN, RN

Specializes in Psych, Med/Surg, LTC. Has 21 years experience.

I never had severe anxiety issues until nursing school. I actually wound up in the ER thinking I was having an MI! :crying2: I have never been the same since nursing school. I feel like it ruined my relaxed attitude. I don't take meds, but I am still not the same. I graduated 7 years ago. :uhoh3:

...Why are you assuming I am judging anyone because I am expressing an opinion? You keep harping on this point, but from what I've read, no one has been judgmental about a student who needs anti-anxiety medication - just the culture of using medication to cure all ailments as the first line of defense. Convenient comparison, but I feel just as strongly about overweight individuals seeking OTC weight loss pills instead of actively changing their diet, increasing their exercise, and portion control.

Yes, I believe that an MD simply throwing pills at someone, which is what my experience and MANY of my fellow anxiety-sufferers' experience has been when seeking help from their PCP, is wrong. I will never think otherwise because primary care physicians are not mental health professionals, and I do not believe they should prescribe mental health medication when their knowledge is limited. If anything, my criticism here is with the healthcare providers, and NOT the students/patients.

It seems to me that you aren't understanding what I'm saying if you believe that I've stated that medication is wrong in any and all cases, because I haven't stated that once.

I have fully understood your posts. My "harping" is advocating for people who have decided with their practitioner that medication is a beneficial part of their treatment plan. I never said that you were stating that medication is wrong in all cases. I said that everyone has the right to make their own treatment decisions with their practitioner, without the implication that they are just "taking the easy way out." That judging any individual "shouldn't be on medication" is out of line. Only the student and their practitioner knows why they've chosen medication, and truly....it's no one else's business but theirs.

I understand that you think, over all, that practitioners choose medication to fast...fantastic! This thread isn't about practitioners, it's about students who are using MH medication. I'm just advocating that these students should not feel like they have to defend their treatment plan.

In my opinion there have been judgmental remarks in this thread, I'm not the only poster to respond to these remarks and no I'm not going to point them out specifically lest the AN "powers that be" consider that to be "personalizing" my remarks.

decembergrad2011, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 12 years experience.

No judgmental posts have come from me. If you want to get offended and LOOK for judgment, it's certainly your prerogative. But medication is a serious thing, and should not be the commonplace treatment, nor the only option explored, for situational anxiety.

I don't know where you got this idea that anyone here believes that they have a right to be involved in their peers' treatment decisions in the first place. It's a conversation, and nobody, to my knowledge, is planning to tar and feather a fellow student on anti-anxiety medication. I'm allowed to express my opinion, and yes, I believe many practitioners take the "easy way out" by prescribing anti-anxiety medication without other interventions.