A recent New York Times blog post discusses the widespread, but very treatable, condition of medical students’ disease. This condition strikes med students who begin to notice that they suffer from symptoms that correlate to an illness they had just learned about or encountered in the hospital.
This syndrome dates back to the mid-1960s when a study was done at McGill University that showed that 70% of med students complained of symptoms related to diseases they’d just studied. Other studies were done with similar results: med students were incorrectly diagnosing themselves with conditions they had freshly studied, from cancer to schizophrenia.
The source of the disease? Most believe it stems from hypochondria, anxiety, and the stress of being in school. And that means grad school in general, not just med school. A study at Oxford showed that first and fourth year med students actually had lower anxiety levels than other grad students. The conclusion: med students are just as likely to fall prey to hypochondria as other students are.
In the blog post, the author recounts his own med school era of imaginary illnesses, and the instances of two of his fellow classmates who indeed did get sick during med school (like validly, seriously ill). So just a note to the wise – sometimes med students really do get sick!