mspeedwagon

10+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2009
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Hi All,

I searched the forums and there doesn't seem to be much on this topic. Since I started med school, I seem to have noticed a steady decline in my cognition and memory (not an ideal place to notice such problems). Recently, it has gotten really bad. We recently had an exam and I remember the written portion, but have little re-collection of the practical portion (I remember going to it, but don't remember actually doing it though I'm told I was there). There have been other similar occurrences in the last week that seem to have just come on suddenly.

I went in to school physician today and he said it was likely stress-related, and wants to do an MRI to rule anything out (unfortunately, school insurance won't cover it). I initially thought this was study burnout so tried to take the day off yesterday and resume studying today, but that didn't help. Honestly, I can't continue in my classes with memory impairment (I was barely passing before these problems started). I'm working on contacting the dean, but am afraid this may kill the 5+ yrs I worked to get into med school. Thankfully, I do have a fall back career.

Any experience/advice is appreciated.

Thanks!
 
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Jul 25, 2011
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Any prior history with anxiety? Regardless, if you think you're going to fail, ask for an LOA. Perhaps you could go back to your old job with insurance and get it figured out.
 
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nwmedapplicant

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Oct 7, 2011
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Hey sorry to hear about your predicament. Obviously we cannot give medical advice - but it sounds like you are doing the right things in seeking medical advice with a physician as well as making a plan to speak to your dean. If it is stress induced - maybe trying to incorporate some stress reducing actions : tutoring (if you are already tutoring - maybe a diff tutor is an option?), a more rigid schedule with studying/sleeping/eating/exercise for balance. Chances are - you've made some or even all of these changes already - but since you posted for ideas - just trying to be helpful. I'm not sure which year you are - but if you are a first year - your brain could also be working through adapting to medical school. It's hard for most at first - but like anything in the body - the brain adapts and retaining info gets easier as you learn what works for helping it make sense in your head.

Also - personally I wouldn't even open the mental option for another career unless you have to. You didn't mention anything about not liking medicine etc. I can give my personal experience that I found it normal for medical students from time to time rethinking their career choice, wondering how bad it would be if they quit etc. 99% of the time it is your brain looking for a way out of an acutely stressful situation. Only you can answer what your best choice is. Just know medical school is hard for everyone - some just figure out how to study, and take care of themselves better faster than others. Good luck in figuring out what's going on.
 
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mspeedwagon

10+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2009
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No history of anxiety (except maybe minor test anxiety) but nothing in my prior life has been comparable to med school.
I have tried to make some lifestyle adjustments but we do not have a block schedule, just test after test after test.

I gave up a lot to come to med school but health is something I am not willing to trade. I love medicine and science (albeit not at med school pace) so hopefully it does not come to that.

Thanks for the advice!
 
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IslandStyle808

Akuma residency or bust!
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Aug 5, 2012
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What about trying your school's psychologist? They should be able to help with issues like this.
 
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KP2AZ

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2 things:
1) like @IslandStyle808 said, the school counselor/psychologist is an incredible resource that all students should utilize if they feel like something is "off". Medical school is extremely stressful for everyone, and anxiety +sleep deprivation can do detrimental things to your concentration and cognition.
2) Once you are in medical school, the Dean and faculty at most DO schools do whatever they can to keep you in school (very different from undergrad).

Good luck to you, and I hope you get everything figured out.
 
Apr 10, 2011
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You state "... just test after test". This sounds a lot like stress and performance anxiety creeping in. Do you have thoughts about not being able to complete medical school or not being good enough or that at any moment something could go wrong? I've had feelings like these and memory issues, but the memory problems really stemmed from having negative thoughts most of the time. Before making any sudden decisions, you should definitely talk to a psychologist. I doubt it cognitive impairment of biological orgin since you state your health is more important then medical school. This sounds a lot more like stress to me.

No history of anxiety (except maybe minor test anxiety) but nothing in my prior life has been comparable to med school.
I have tried to make some lifestyle adjustments but we do not have a block schedule, just test after test after test.

I gave up a lot to come to med school but health is something I am not willing to trade. I love medicine and science (albeit not at med school pace) so hopefully it does not come to that.

Thanks for the advice!
 

group_theory

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Please do not try to diagnose or analyze the cause of "memory decline" since that is seeking medical advice/trying to give medical advice.

The medical workup should be up to the OP's physician(s) and medical team (which may include counselors/psychologist/school officials).

I left this thread open to discuss options/ways to cope with memory decline so that the OP can get meaningful advice. There may be others going through similar issues who may want to chime in.
 

AlbinoHawk DO

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It sounds to me like the physician was right about stress. The truth is that medical school will test you in ways you have never before and just need to push through that MS-1 until you learn to adapt. Your problem, unfortunately, will not be solved by not studying for a day. The truth is you will just have to keep going and going until you adjust. The game simply demands it. Remember to eat well and drink a lot of water. One time I forgot to drink water and dehydrated myself real bad. If you also drink coffee, try to maintain it. Don't kick it off because it may trigger depression and don't force yourself more into anxiety. Good luck.
 
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mspeedwagon

10+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2009
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Update: I went in to the physician, got a bunch of tests and all came back normal. He confirmed it's stress and suggested I take a LOA and come back (I talked to the school about and they were ok with EXCEPT they would charge me again for this semester). It may have had a lot to do with being out of the academic game and coming back to a school that has such an intense and repetitive test schedule. My body just doesn't seem to be able to do what I used to and the workload is a ton more. Oh well, I'm going to push on for now. If this happens again, I'll re-think my game plan (thankfully, I have immediate access to a high paying job that I left to come to med school... so not a bad plan B I guess). Thank you all for the advice!
 
Jul 25, 2011
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Ask for help in terms of meds and/or coping techniques in case you need them. You can do this. Keep on trucking, and best of luck!
 
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Dharma

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Aug 12, 2010
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Update: I went in to the physician, got a bunch of tests and all came back normal. He confirmed it's stress and suggested I take a LOA and come back (I talked to the school about and they were ok with EXCEPT they would charge me again for this semester). It may have had a lot to do with being out of the academic game and coming back to a school that has such an intense and repetitive test schedule. My body just doesn't seem to be able to do what I used to and the workload is a ton more. Oh well, I'm going to push on for now. If this happens again, I'll re-think my game plan (thankfully, I have immediate access to a high paying job that I left to come to med school... so not a bad plan B I guess). Thank you all for the advice!
Don't take a LOA. That will make things a bit rough when it comes to applying for residency. Find ways to decompress: exercise (lift too!), meditation, video games, chess, and whatever else you can think of that is healthy. Don't put too much stress on yourself. Every once in a while, take a step back and see the big picture. Remember how much you wanted this med school thing... how bad you want to be a physician. Feel that. Smile and keep pushing forward. You have your health and your youth (relatively speaking). Don't forget that.

Besides that... some solid therapy will you do well. Sounds like you're suffering from anxiety. I would hesitate with any advice regarding medications at this point, but this up to you and your provider to decide.

One step at a time. Keep on trucking buddy. Good luck.
 
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